ICYMI: Senator Marshall Addresses Challenges in Rural America, Cattle Markets During Ag Committee Hearing

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. questioned USDA nominees before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry regarding challenges in rural America and the recent volatility in domestic cattle futures markets. Kansans in the cattle industry have contacted Senator Marshall’s office regarding the recent break in futures prices. In the hearing, Senator Marshall raised these concerns to the nominees. 

Dr. Basil Ivanhoe Gooden came before the committee as the nominee for Undersecretary for Rural Development at USDA, a position which will replace Ms. Xochitl Torres Small, who is now Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Summer K. Mersinger is renominated to be a Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. 

You may click HERE or on the image above to watch Senator Marshall’s full questioning.

Highlights from Senator Marshall’s questioning include:

Senator Marshall: If you could do one thing in the next six months that would help rural America, what would it be, maybe one or two things?

Dr. Gooden: I really feel that rural America, actually the loss of the population in rural America. So really promote rural livability, making sure that people understand that rural America is not just a place that produces energy or things that you can extract products from, that actually is a place that you can live, raise a family, and actually work and have a livable wage, really, again, just promote that. 

If you’re talking specifically through our programs at rural America, what I would do in the next six months, I would focus heavily on our staffing, making sure our staffing is adequately supported in our field-based operations where we meet the customers day on the ground, to make sure that they understand our programs and can access our programs. 

Senator Marshall: I do want to ask about child care…If we expanded USDA loan program to include child care facilities, would that be of use?

Dr. Gooden: Oh, yes, Senator, and certainly our community facilities program, actually, we invest in community facilities, health care, clinics, rural areas, hospitals as well. And certainly educational opportunities.

Senator Marshall: I’m going to talk about live cattle future prices for a second, they just seem to be out of whack. I have never seen such divergence in the prices. And we do use these, our feedlots, some, I don’t know 25% of the beef in the country comes through our feedlots in southwest Kansas as well. So this swing in prices is damaging to producers. What’s the economic basis for this big swing that is happening? And heaven forbid, is there any type of a market any type of evidence of market manipulation going on here? Is there any chance that there’s market manipulation going on? It just doesn’t make sense to us?

Commissioner Mersinger: I know how important the futures markets are for cattle producers in providing that price discovery, we have very well qualified, very smart analysts who are watching these markets day in and day out. Monitoring, you know, the agricultural markets are very sensitive to underlying fundamentals. And as you know, you know, the pricing aspect and how prices are reported in the cattle markets. You know, there’s, there’s a number of questions around how that is formulated. That’s not within our jurisdiction, but certainly it impacts our futures markets. And so, you know, certainly we are willing to work with USDA willing to work with this committee to see, you know, if there are things that need to be changed, and certainly if there’s anything that needs to be changed within the contract specs, specifications for the library. 

Senator Marshall: If there was market manipulation going on, do you think that you could see it? Could you figure it out? Are you concerned, there’s market manipulation? 

Commissioner Mersinger: I do feel strongly that we would be able to see it if there was manipulation in the futures markets. Not only are we surveying for that, but also the exchanges, that’s part of their role. So I do think, you know, when we see fraud and manipulation, we put an end to it. We go after the bad actors. And it’s also on the exchange to ensure that these markets are not susceptible to fraud or manipulation. That’s part of their core principle. So we are looking into it all the time and certainly happy to work with your office in this committee to see what we can do if there are things that can be done to better make sure these markets serve their purpose.