06.22.22

Rounds’ Meat Packing Special Investigator Act Passes Senate Agriculture Committee

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today applauded passage of their bipartisan Meat Packing Special Investigator Act through the Senate Agriculture Committee. The senators’ legislation will address anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries that hurt consumers and producers, threaten the nation's food supply and endanger America’s food security.

“Anticompetitive behavior in the meat packing industry hurts both consumers and producers,” said Rounds. “Unfortunately, packer concentration in the beef industry is more consolidated today than it was when the Packers and Stockyards Act was first signed into law over 100 years ago. It’s long past time to address this problem. I thank my colleagues on the committee for their bipartisan support of our legislation and look forward to working across the aisle to get this bill signed into law.”

“Anticompetitive behavior by the large meatpackers have raised prices on consumers and pushed family ranchers out of business, so this is a critical step toward making sure capitalism works like it’s supposed to work,” said Tester. “I want to thank Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Boozman for their leadership, feedback, and rigorous debate during the committee process. Now we need to put this bill on the Senate floor so we can make sure there is fair competition in the marketplace because when free markets work, consumers see lower prices at the meat counter, producers get a fair return on their product, and our economy grows stronger in rural America and across the country.”

“With the passage of this bill, my years-long beef with Big Cattle is one step closer to being settled,” said Grassley. “Iowa cattle producers have struggled to receive a fair price for years – long before inflation hit a 40-year high. It’s past time for Congress to stand with independent cattle producers and put an end to the cozy relationship between large meat packers and big cattle feedlots.”

The senators' Meat Packing Special Investigator Act would create the "Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters" within the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Packers and Stockyards Division.

The new USDA special investigator will have a team of investigators, with subpoena power, dedicated to preventing and addressing anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries and enforcing our nation's antitrust laws. They will coordinate and act in consultation with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a new bridge between the USDA and the Department of Homeland Security to protect the continuation of the food supply and increase national security. With a team of dedicated staff, the USDA will now have the ability to investigate the tough issues facing producers and hold bad actors accountable.

Rounds, Tester and Grassley have led efforts to combat corporate consolidation and protect the livelihood of family farmers and ranchers. All three joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in demanding the Department of Justice investigate whether the control large meatpackers have over the beef processing market violates U.S. antitrust laws and principles of fair competition.

Click HERE for full bill text.

Background:

Since he was elected to the Senate, Rounds has led numerous efforts to provide solutions to the problems faced by independent cattle producers and beef consumers including:

  • Led a group of 26 colleagues with Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) in calling on the attorney general to investigate the meatpacking industry to determine if antitrust violations exist.
  • Introduced bipartisan resolution with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) directing the FTC to investigate anticompetitive practices and allegations of antitrust law violations in the beef packing industry.
  • Joined Tester on legislation that that would suspend Brazilian beef imports to the United States until experts can conduct a systematic review of the commodity’s safety
  • Addressed cattle producers during a virtual town hall focused on meatpacker concentration in the cattle industry.
  • Reintroduced legislation with Senator Angus King (I-Maine) to allow meat and poultry products inspected by state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines.
  • Introduced bipartisan legislation to foster more competitive cattle markets by requiring that a minimum of 50 percent of a meatpacker’s weekly volume of cattle purchases take place on the open or spot market.
  • Introduced legislation which would outlaw foreign beef from being labeled as a “Product of the U.S.A.” and make certain that label only goes on beef and beef products exclusively derived from animals born, raised and slaughtered here in the United States.

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