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GAO issues report on cattle markets

Photo by Ben Nuelle

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows supply and demand factors, such as a drought that affected the price of cattle feed, affected changes in prices of fed cattle — those ready for slaughter from 2013 through 2016.

The price of fed cattle has fluctuated widely from 2013 through 2016 and experienced a sharp downturn beginning in late 2015, raising concerns about the market and questions about USDA’s oversight, which prompted those in the industry to request the report.

GAO’s analysis of cattle market data from USDA also indicated that competition levels among packers that slaughter and process fed cattle did not appear to affect the national price changes in the fed cattle market in 2015, but areas of the country with less competition among packers had lower cattle prices.

GAO offered two recommendations, including USDA review the extent to which, under statute, the price reporting group can share daily transaction data with the Packers and Stockyards Program. And if USDA determines the statute does not permit such sharing, and it is advisable, submit to Congress a proposal to allow such sharing.