06.02.21

Rounds, Smith Lead 26 Colleagues in Calling for DOJ Investigation Into Cattle Market

Investigation would examine anticompetitive behavior among meatpackers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) led 26 of their colleagues in requesting that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate the meatpacking industry to determine if antitrust violations exist.

In a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the members ask the DOJ to take decisive action in examining the behavior of the four large meatpacking companies—two of which are foreign-owned—that control over 80% of the meat processing market.

“From our perspective, the anticompetitive practices occurring in the industry today are unambiguous and either our antitrust laws are not being enforced or they are not capable of addressing the apparent oligopoly that so plainly exists,” the members wrote.

Sen. Rounds said that the nationwide effort he started to address meatpacker concentration will continue far beyond this letter.

“We’ve seen tremendous grassroots support from across the ideological spectrum and across the nation for addressing meatpacker concentration issues,” Rounds said. “Our letter to the attorney general is just one step in our effort to restore competition in the marketplace for cattlemen and make certain consumers are offered high-quality beef at an affordable price. The Justice Department needs to take a serious look into the meatpacking industry, and if they cannot, Congress needs to pass reforms that protect a fair and open cattle market. For far too long, independent cattle producers have been forced out of the business while meatpackers continue to profit at the expense of the American consumer. This cannot continue. We will continue to raise awareness about this issue and take steps to protect the domestic supply of live cattle that is critical to America’s economic and national security.”

“For far too long, cattle producers and consumers have been hurt by the increasing concentration of market power and anti-competitive actions of just a few meatpacking companies," Smith said. "Their collective power over the beef processing industry allows them to seemingly control prices at their will. Meanwhile, cattle producers are making pennies on the dollar and consumers are paying an over-inflated premium on beef. The Department of Justice ought to examine whether meatpacking companies are violating antitrust laws and principals of fair competition.”

Full text of their letter can be found HERE.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Angus King (I-Maine), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Reps. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Andy Barr (R-Ky.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Neal Dunn (R-Fla.), Mary Miller (R-Ill.), Jason Smith (R-Mo.), and Bob Good (R-Va.).

Background:

Since he was elected to the Senate, Sen. Rounds has worked to address the negative impacts of meatpacker concentration. Most recently, he:

  • Launched a nationwide effort to protect consumers and cattlemen from anticompetitive practices in the beef processing market.
  • Participated in a virtual town hall with cattle producers focused on addressing meatpacker concentration issues in the cattle industry.
  • Reintroduced legislation with Sen. 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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