WASHINGTON — Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, along with two other Republican House members, have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to release a final investigative report into beef industry disparities.
In May 2020, the DOJ launched an investigation into four of the nation’s largest meat packers, citing suspicions that the companies were engaging in market manipulation behavior that allegedly contributed to the major gap in livestock prices. and canned beef prices. Lucas said no final report or update was offered by the DOJ.
Derrell Peel, a professor at Oklahoma State University and a livestock marketing specialist at OSU Extension, said cattlemen have been worried about the industry for several years. However, he does not think this is a major concern for consumers and small farmers.
“I don’t think it’s a big versus small issue, although smaller producers would probably disagree, and they certainly feel that the industry’s focus on large-scale production is a disadvantage. for them, but that’s really not the case in this particular example,” Peel said.
“The only change we had [in the market] is that we had many more shocks.
Lucas and U.S. Representatives Michael Guest (R, Mississippi) and Darren Soto (D, Florida) sent a letter in May to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting the final report.
“We understand that a full investigation can take several months, but we are concerned that farmers, ranchers and packers themselves have all been left with little direction since civil investigation requests were issued. issued,” the letter read. “As you may be aware, the price of live cattle in the United States has declined over the past several years, forcing many smallholders to make difficult decisions as they strive to stay in business and maintain their operational farms.”
Boxed beef prices have risen significantly over the past year and have widened the gap between live cattle prices and canned beef prices, which is of concern to both producers and consumers. Tyson, JBS SA, Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. and National Beef/Marfing are under investigation. None of them are based in Oklahoma, but the four companies control more than 80% of beef processing in the country.
“These challenges reinforce the need to ensure that our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and producers operate in transparent markets, which in turn helps feed American families,” the letter to the attorney general continues. “We ask the DOJ to continue to monitor this issue and provide updates to the findings to ensure confidence in our commodity markets.”
In July 2020, Lucas said the DOJ investigation may shed more light on market volatility.
“This afternoon, the United States Department of Agriculture released a report on the price gap between boxed beef and fed cattle that occurred after the August 2019 Tyson plant fire. and during COVID-19 shutdowns,” Lucas said last year. “Their report consists of an analysis of market performance under the pressure caused by these two events and policy recommendations to improve the overall market.
“While this report is helpful in seeking solutions and reform at this time, I continue to look forward to the conclusion of USDA and Department of Justice investigations into any ongoing or isolated violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. or anti-trust law.”
Lucas introduced the RAMP-UP Act last year, which aimed to establish a program to help small meat processors make improvements to meet federal standards.
Such a program was established this year through the $2.3 trillion spending bill, the Consolidated Appropriation Act of 2021.
Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.