A pair of bills aimed at increasing transparency in the beef industry and improving cattle market oversight were greenlighted by a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday.

But several senators criticized the mandatory purchase section in the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act.

The leading bill aims to increase price transparency by setting regional cash trade mandates for the beef industry and by establishing a cattle contract library. It is championed by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

The other bill, drafted by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., would create a new USDA position to investigate violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

During the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry meeting, Fischer said the goal of the legislation is to ensure every segment of the beef supply chain can succeed by ensuring robust price discovery and market transparency.

However, Ranking Member Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said he fears unintended consequences, specifically with the mandatory minimums.

“Investments in genetics, breeding decisions and specialized marketing have brought real returns to the ranch families that have chosen to take those steps. The incentive for those investments (would be) taken away and the focus becomes producing the most pounds for the lowest cost,” Boozman said. “I think the industry and our ranch families and our rural communities all suffer.”

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, added the mandates will actually harm feedlots and cow-calf operations by giving more control to the big four packing plants and reducing prices received by producers, especially in the southern Plains states.

“While this is an attempt to regulate the packer, the result is actually additional regulation of the cattle producer. This will give the packer most of the leverage to decide who gets the good deal and who gets the bad deal,” Marshall said.

Fischer said she understands the value of alternative marketing arrangements (AMAs), as they can provide economic returns and operational efficiencies.

“However, AMAs rely on the negotiated market often using publicly reported cash price information to set their base prices,” she said. “We have witnessed voluntary industry efforts to increase negotiated trade.

“While there was some success ultimately by the industry’s own standards, these voluntary efforts failed because of the packers’ lack of participation.”

Both bills were approved by a voice vote; Boozman and Marshall recorded “no” votes. The House passed a version of the special investigator bill as part of a package of measures Democrats argue would lower food and fuel costs.

The committee adopted an amendment introduced by Grassley that conforms the special investigator bill to the House version. It also mandates the investigator be a senior career USDA employee and clarifies the investigator may not bring action forward if it’s not regulated by the Packers and Stockyards Act.

It’s not clear when or if either of the Senate bills will get floor votes.

”Now we need to put this bill on the Senate floor, because we can’t afford to let massive multi-national corporations continue to price gouge consumers while ripping off our family ranchers,” Tester said in a statement.

American Farm Bureau Federation opposes the proposed mandatory minimums for negotiated purchases. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) opposes both bills, but the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) supports them.