U. S. Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D. released the following statement after the publication of a report and recommended actions by the USDA amid the ongoing investigations into market manipulation by beef packing plants.
"The USDA's report on price spread between fed cattle and boxed beef prices following both the Kansas packing plant fire in August 2019 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was helpful and indeed highlighted the substantial impact both events have had on the beef industry. While this report is useful in outlining solutions and reforms we can act on immediately, I continue to look forward to the conclusion and final findings of both the USDA and Department of Justice's investigations.
Kansas is one of the leading beef producing states, representing all parts of the beef supply chain and it is essential the we bring solvency back to our family ranches and livestock owners.
Since coming to Congress, I have worked tirelessly to advocate for issues impacting the livestock industry. In addition to the ongoing investigations, I believe there are several impactful changes that Congress and the USDA can and should implement to help both livestock owners and consumers.
I am a cosponsor of the RAMP-UP Act, which would establish a program to help smaller meat processors make facility upgrades to help them move to federal inspection and sell their products across state lines. I have also worked to resolve issues with the CFTC and provide our livestock owners with more marketing and risk management opportunities. I am also supportive of the Agricultural Security Risk Review Act, which would ensure that foreign investment in the agriculture industry is given the necessary scrutiny needed to protect our national food supply chain.
As the author of the Real MEAT Act, I have advocated for greater transparency in labeling to protect terms like "meat" and "beef" and help consumers better differentiate real meat from non-meat products. I have also been an advocate for improved labeling of non-U.S. meat products, which will also provide greater transparency for consumers. Another one of my bills, the SALE Act, would establish a trust to protect cash sellers from predatory dealers by ensuring they are paid out.
I have also helped to secure several exemptions from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandates for livestock haulers and authored legislation to give the USDA Secretary the authority to grant haying and grazing rights to CRP landowners during pandemics.
When fires broke out in southern Kansas in 2016 and 2017, I authored legislation to bring relief to livestock and property owners impacted by the fire by rolling back unnecessary regulatory burdens hampering their ability to rebuild and recoup losses.
When COVID-19 impacted the communities and beef packing plants in Southwest Kansas, I reached out to the White House Task Force and CDC to set up community and on-site testing, deliver essential medical equipment to local hospitals and personal protective equipment for packing plant employees. Working alongside the local health departments, hospitals, nurses, and other front line workers we were able to keep all four packing plants operational and never drop below 50 percent processing capacity.
Finally, we led a request to the White House, which resulted in USDA assistance to the livestock industry, through its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The agency had paid livestock owners more than $2.4 billion to supplement losses from COVID. Prior to this program, livestock owners had never been included in direct payments from the USDA.
As we continue our work in Congress, there remains a great deal to be done to help our livestock owners and American consumers and I look forward to continuing to lead the charge."