06.15.21

Rounds, Tester, Grassley Unveil Legislation to Address Anti-Competitive Practices in Meat Processing Industry

Meat Packing Special Investigator Act will create new dedicated office within the Department of Agriculture’s Packers and Stockyards Division

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced new, bipartisan legislation to address anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries that threaten the nation’s food supply and national security following the ransomware attack on JBS, the country’s largest meat supplier. 

“Congress knew in 1921 what we know today – anticompetitive behavior in the meat packing industry hurts both consumers and producers,” Rounds said. “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 100 years ago. South Dakota cattle producers are going broke, while consumers are paying an over-inflated premium for beef at the grocery store. It’s long past time to address this problem. Our legislation strengthens USDA’s ability to investigate harmful anticompetitive behavior and to apply the Packers and Stockyards Act as intended.”

“For years, unfair, anticompetitive practices in the meat packing industry have hit Montana ranchers where it hurts the most—in the wallet—and put our rural communities and family agriculture way of life at risk,” Tester said. “On top of that, corporate consolidation is a direct threat to our national security, because a single cyber attack that threatens the very food we eat is proof that something must be done, and fast. That’s why this bill is so important—it devotes the needed tools to USDA to shore up our national security and address anticompetitive practices in the industry that threaten Montana ranchers and consumers.”

“Increased consolidation is driving concerns about competitive market access for Iowa livestock producers,” Grassley said. “The recent cyberattack added to existing vulnerabilities in our food supply chain, underscoring the importance of protecting the livelihoods of our family farmers. Food security is national security. This bill provides USDA with the necessary tools to beef up enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, increase coordination with DOJ, FTC, and DHS and to foster a fair and functional marketplace for farmers and consumers alike.”

The Senators’ bill, the 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 and create a new bridge between the USDA and the Department of Homeland Security to protect the continuation of the food supply and increase our national security.

Full bill text can be found HERE.

Background:

Since he was elected to the Senate, Sen. Rounds has worked to provide solutions to the problems faced by independent cattle producers and beef consumers. Most recently, he:

  • Led a group of 26 colleagues with Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) in calling on the attorney general to investigate the meatpacking industry to determine if antitrust violations exist.
  • Addressed cattle producers during a virtual town hall focused on meatpacker concentration 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.

###