Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) has offered an amendment to the farm bill that would require that a packer treat all producers the same "regardless of any alleged business justification." Yes, this could include paying more for high-quality cattle with superior genetics or even cattle with known management attributes such as certain feeding protocols to improve quality.
Eliminating packers' ability to pay for quality and consistency? Well, what more needs to be said. This would usher us back to the days of commodity-beef production.
Anyone who's ever invested in good genetics, herd health or management practices to improve the consistency and quality of his or her product should be alarmed that such an amendment would ever be offered. The bottom line is that, if passed, Certified Angus Beef, Certified Hereford Beef, and a host of others would essentially become illegal. The entire natural, grass and organic niche markets would be rendered obsolete, as they have higher costs of production.
Then there's the Grassley-Thune Amendment, which not only would turn upside down the basic premise that one is innocent until proven guilty, but would set up a task force with no accountability and nearly unlimited authority to investigate transactions.
All the success the industry has enjoyed — improving beef demand, increasing branded programs and becoming more consumer-focused — could be washed away in this farm bill.
Sure, everyone looks at the Tester and Grassley/Thune amendments and thinks to themselves: "This is just political maneuvering; these would never be implemented." And while these proposals' absurdity may lead one to believe that, these amendments are from U.S. senators in what are considered strong ag states.