Lucas Joins Bipartisan Letter to DOJ Requesting Update on Cattle Market Investigations

Jun 08, 2021
Agriculture
Press

Cheyenne, OK – Today, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined Congressman Michael Guest (R-MS) and Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL) in sending a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) provide updates or a final report to Congress on the DOJ’s investigations into anticompetitive conduct within the beef industry.

Cattle producers in Oklahoma and across the country have continued to experience volatile livestock markets driven by supply chain disruptions and labor challenges driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and a consolidated beef market. In May of 2020, the Department of Justice launched investigations into the four largest meatpackers in the United States to examine if anticompetitive market-distorting practices led to price disparities between live cattle prices and wholesale beef.

“We understand that a thorough investigation can take many months, but it concerns us that farmers, ranchers, and the packers themselves have all been left with little direction since the CIDs were issued. As you may know, the price for live cattle in the United States has decreased in the last several years, forcing many small operators to make difficult decisions as they strive to stay in business and keep their farms operational. Yet, at the same time, the price of boxed beef has increased significantly, raising consumer prices and widening the gap between live cattle prices, which is a concern for ranchers and consumers alike,” said the Members of Congress. “This disparity has only been accelerated by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the labor shortages in processing facilities due to enhanced government benefits, all of which has resulted in continued food supply chain disruption.”

The lawmakers continued, “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. We ask that the DOJ continue its attentiveness to this matter and provide updates of findings to ensure confidence in our commodity markets.”

Since the Holcomb, Kansas fire and throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Lucas has worked to provide vital support for Oklahoma’s cattle ranchers. In May of 2020, Congressman Lucas led a bipartisan letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting the Agency provide its findings of their beef pricing investigation to Congress as soon as possible.

In June of 2020, USDA released its analysis of beef market conditions. While the report was helpful in looking for policy solutions and reforms, Lucas said in a statement that ongoing DOJ investigations could shed more light on the market’s volatility.

In July 2020, Congressman Lucas and former Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (MN-07) introduced the RAMP-UP Act, which would establish a grant program to help small meat processors make improvements necessary to meet federal food safety standards and bolsters the meat supply chain. Included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, was an amended version of the RAMP-UP Act establishing such grant program.

Read the full text of the letter to DOJ here or below:

Dear Attorney General Garland:

On May 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division issued civil investigative demands (CIDs) to the four largest meatpackers in the United States due to concerns of anticompetitive conduct within the beef industry. Unfortunately, the DOJ has not provided any updates regarding the investigation’s status or conclusive reports resulting from this review. We respectfully request details on the outcome of the investigation. Should this matter require more time, we encourage the Antitrust Division to continue its civil investigation while at minimum providing a status update to Congress.

We understand that a thorough investigation can take many months, but it concerns us that farmers, ranchers, and the packers themselves have all been left with little direction since the CIDs were issued. As you may know, the price for live cattle in the United States has decreased in the last several years, forcing many small operators to make difficult decisions as they strive to stay in business and keep their farms operational. Yet, at the same time, the price of boxed beef has increased significantly, raising consumer prices and widening the gap between live cattle prices, which is a concern for ranchers and consumers alike. This disparity has only been accelerated by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the labor shortages in processing facilities due to enhanced government benefits, all of which has resulted in continued food supply chain disruption.

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. We ask that the DOJ continue its attentiveness to this matter and provide updates of findings to ensure confidence in our commodity markets. Thank you for your review and consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

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