Justice Department looks at competition in beef industry

The U.S. Department of Justice wants information about cattle market competition from the four largest meat packers in the country.

Last month President Trump, U.S. Senators, State Attorneys General and the U.S. Department of Agriculture asked for an investigation.

The Justice Department issued subpoenas to the four largest meat packers concerning allegations of price fixing livestock markets, according to the office of Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont.

Four companies control more than 80 percent of the processed beef market.

A fire at the Tyson Beef plant in Holcomb, Kan. last August and more recently, COVID-19 have illustrated the concerns.

“That revealed how sensitive our industry is under its current structure,” said Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA C.E.O. “And then as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we saw more plants close and so cattle prices collapsed even further. The alarming thing is that beef prices continued to escalate and has now hit all time highs.”

Bullard said the 1921 Packers and Stockyards act and anti-trust laws are supposed to protect cattle producers.

According to a Montana Ag Network story, in April, the Montana Stockgrowers Association joined 22 other state cattlemen’s associations in also requesting an investigation into beef pricing margins.

Daines, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Sen. Mike Enzi. R-Wyo., signed a letter asking the DOJ for an investigation.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has sponsored legislation dealing with competition in the cattle markets.

Q2 has not yet heard back from the companies or from meat packer trade associations.