USDA provides update on investigation following 2019 Tyson Beef Plant closure and COVID-19 pandemic | TheFencePost.com
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USDA provides update on investigation following 2019 Tyson Beef Plant closure and COVID-19 pandemic

U.S. Department of Agriculture

As part of its commitment to ensuring fair and competitive markets for the livestock, meat and poultry industries, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report on its ongoing boxed beef and fed cattle price spread investigation.

“The closure of the Tyson beef packing plant in Holcomb, Kan., after a fire at the facility, and the COVID-19 pandemic clearly disrupted the markets and processing systems responsible for the production and sale of U.S. beef,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “The report examines these economic disruptions and the significant increase in the spread between boxed beef and fed cattle prices that resulted from them. While we’re pleased to provide this update, we assure producers that our work continues in order to determine if there are any violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. If any unfair practices are detected, we will take quick enforcement action.”

BACKGROUND

The report, prepared by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in coordination with the Office of the Chief Economist, summarizes market conditions, fed cattle prices, boxed beef values and the spread before and after the fire and plant closure at the Tyson Holcomb plant, and before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also discusses several policy considerations in light of the desire by many market participants for improved price discovery, reinvigorated competition, and a more transparent relationship between the prices for live cattle and the resulting products. Considerations include potential updates to Livestock Mandatory Reporting to reduce instances of non-reporting and increase percentages of negotiated cash transactions, risk management outreach, education and product improvements for small and medium-sized producers, small to very small meat processor outreach and opportunities, and enhancements to the Packers and Stockyards Act investigative and enforcement tools.

While the report does not examine potential violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act, USDA staff have maintained a cooperative relationship with the staff of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and have discussed allegations of anticompetitive practices in the meat packing industry. Should USDA find a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act, it is authorized to report the violation to DOJ for prosecution. ❖


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Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., former Vice President Joe Biden’s choice as a vice presidential candidate, has said she is not a protectionist and believes in trade.But she has also said she would not have voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement, voted against the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement due to environmental concerns, and opposed the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations from which President Donald Trump withdrew, according to media reports.At a primary debate in September 2019 when she was campaigning for president, Harris said, “I am not a protectionist Democrat. Look, we need to sell our stuff. And that means we need to sell it to people overseas. That means we need trade policies that allow that to happen.”Harris has also been critical of Trump’s trade policies, calling increased tariffs a tax on the American people.Responding to a Council on Foreign Relations questionnaire, Harris said,Trump’s “trade war is crushing American farmers, killing American jobs, and punishing American consumers.”“I would work with our allies in Europe and Asia to confront China on its troubling trade practices, not perpetuate Trump’s failing tariff war that is being paid for by hard‐working Americans,” she said.Harris’s rural platform also said that she would take executive action to re-establish the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration as an independent office at the Agriculture Department and “appoint an Agriculture secretary who will prioritize enforcement of the Packers & Stockyards Act.”Re-establishing GIPSA has been a goal of groups that are critical of U.S. beef imports.Note: Links to Harris’s presidential campaign website have been redirected to the Biden campaign site, but the text of her “Partnership With Rural America” policy page may still be read through a web cache, at https://www.cato.org/blog/kamala-harris-trade-policy.In an analysis of Harris’s trade statements, Simon Lester of the Cato Institute wrote this week, “Where does all of that leave us? She does not seem to be an economic nationalist or isolationist, and she makes clear that she believes the United States should engage with the world economically.”“At the same time, though, the terms of that engagement are a bit uncertain. What exactly would she want to see in a trade agreement before she would sign on to it? She clearly wants more labor and environment provisions in trade agreements, although USMCA had quite a lot and she still voted against it, arguing that climate change should be covered as well.“Maybe the answer is simply that she wants to change the scope of trade agreements, so that they still promote trade liberalization, but at the same time continue their expansion towards general global governance of non‐trade issues. Vice presidents sometimes take on specific issue areas in which to play an active role. If Biden wins and Harris as VP has trade in her portfolio, we will find out more.”

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