House, Senate GOP urge DOJ to investigate big four meatpackers
A bicameral coalition of Republican senators and House members on Monday urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to continue the Justice Department investigation into the nation’s four biggest meatpackers.
The bicameral letter also requested that DOJ provide Congress with updates on its investigation and encouraged ongoing vigilance on this issue.
In the letter led by Sens. John Thune, R-S.D. and Rep. Dusty Johnson, D-S.D., the coalition wrote, “Cattle producers, especially small feeders, are again experiencing difficult conditions that are threatening their ability to stay in business.”
“With a tight supply chain, any changes in processing capacity can have a dramatic impact on cattle prices, preventing producers from capturing margin from boxed beef rallies. It is critically important that producers have fair and transparent markets for the commodities they produce. We urge the DOJ Antitrust Division to continue vigilance and where possible, provide updates of findings.”
The legislators also noted that on May 22, 2020, the Justice Department Antitrust Division sent civil investigative demands (CIDs) to the nation’s four biggest meatpackers, but that “Since that time, the American people have seen no public results from the investigation. In fact, there is no information to even suggest whether the investigation has concluded or is still ongoing.”
The letter was also signed by Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Kevin Cramer, R-Mont. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, John Hoeven, R-N.D. and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and Reps. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
The National Cattlemen’’ Beef Association praised the effort.
“Despite strong consumer demand and reopening across much of the country, cattle producers face significant business challenges,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane.
“The farmers and ranchers NCBA represents are contending with high market volatility, drought, and extreme input costs, and they can’t capture the value they deserve for the high-quality product they supply.
“We have a high supply of cattle at one end of this equation and a high demand for U.S. beef at the other, but the middle is being absolutely choked by the lack of processing capacity. It’s in the best interests of both producers and consumers for the Department of Justice to get to the bottom of the current market dynamics, and assess why they seemingly always result in producers getting the short end of the deal.
“Cattle producers deserve to know whether or not the price disparity that has plagued our market is the result of anti-competitive or other inappropriate practices in the packing sector.
“We thank Sen. Thune and Congressman Johnson for keeping up the drumbeat on this critical issue” Lane said. “We hope their bicameral request for a progress report will be met at DOJ with the urgency it warrants, and we hope to see results from the attorney general soon.”
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