Lawmakers ask DOJ to investiage JBS’ plans to convert lamb processor to beef

The Hagstrom Report

JBS, the Brazilian meat company, is planning to convert a Colorado lamb processing company to beef, leaving the sheep industry without a processing plant for 350,000 lambs in the western states, according to local media reports.

JBS USA Holdings Inc. was expected to close on its purchase of the Mountain States Rosen lamb processing facility in Greeley, Colo., on Friday, but senators and house members from five western states have asked the Justice Department to intervene in the purchase.

“It is our understanding that JBS intends to permanently destroy all of the lamb processing equipment as soon as this week,” the lawmakers led by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim last Wednesday.

“This is alarming for several reasons,” the lawmakers continued. “In addition to eliminating hundreds of jobs, MSR’s Greeley facility is one of the largest lamb processing facilities in the region, and serves sheep ranchers from 15 states, including Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and California.“

“This facility competes head-to-head with JBS, which imports all of its lamb products. Through this acquisition, JBS will eliminate a major domestic competitor in the region and could replace significant quantities of the American-raised lamb with imported products. Industry experts tell us that the lamb processing market does not have the capacity to absorb the lambs currently going to MSR. Approximately 15-20% of the U.S. supply may not find a processor when they are ready for market.

“We are told that many of these family operated sheep ranches in the Western states may go out of business after this deal, costing the lamb industry potentially hundreds of millions of dollars per year.”

“We urge you to immediately open an investigation into this acquisition and take appropriate steps to prevent irreversible actions that might harm the ability of American sheep ranchers to get their products to market until the department can determine how best to protect competition in this significant part of America’s food supply.”

In an interview on the Red River Farm Network website last week, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association Executive Director James Halverson said, “I don’t know that hardly anybody knew about this before the last couple of days. This raises a lot of red flags, so I think our industry is justified in raising a lot of questions.”

Halverson added that there is still time for sheep producers’ voices to be heard and urged them to call their senators and representatives in Washington.

Besides Lee, signers of the letter included Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Steve Daines of Montana, Mitt Romney of Utah, and Michael Rounds and John Thune of South Dakota.

House members who signed the letter included Republicans Rob Bishop of Utah, Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Greg Gianforte of Montana, Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, Devin Nunes of California and Chris Stewart of Utah.

A copy of the letter was sent to Agriculture Deputy Secretary Steve Censky.

Carson Jorgensen, a Utah sheep rancher, also wrote Vice President Mike Pence about the situation, emphasizing that JBS is foreign-owned. ❖