Senators Introduce Resolution to Investigate Anticompetitive Practices in Beef Industry

by Colter Brown

On Thursday, Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a bipartisan resolution asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate beef companies for potential price fixing.

The resolution invokes a 1914 act that authorizes the president or Congress to direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate alleged antitrust violations. The rule has not been used since the 1920s.

This bipartisan joint resolution would direct the FTC to report to Congress within one year on:

  •  the extent of anticompetitive practices and violations of antitrust law in the beef-packing industry, including price fixing, anticompetitive acquisitions, dominance of supply chains, and monopolization;
  • the monetary and other harms of anticompetitive practices and violations of antitrust law in the beef-packing industry on consumers, ranchers, farmers, plant workers, and small businesses; and
  • recommendations for legislation or other remedial actions.

“Only four billionaire corporations control 85% of the market for beef — and these giant corporations have been using their market power to raise prices for consumers and have reduced pay for ranchers, farmers, and plant workers, all while padding their bottom lines. It’s time for Congress to get back in the game and use every tool to promote competition in our markets so we can lower costs for families, and I’m glad to be leading this bipartisan effort with Senator Rounds,” said Senator Warren.

“For the past two years, I have been calling on the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of price-fixing, collusion and other unfair practices in the beef packing industry,” said Senator Rounds. “Unfortunately, the Department of Justice has seemingly not made these concerns a priority and both consumers and cattle producers in South Dakota continue to suffer as a result. For years, the price paid to cattle producers for their high-quality American products has not followed the price of beef at the grocery store. Meanwhile, the four largest beef packers, who control over 80 percent of the beef processing capacity, have enjoyed record profits. This has resulted in nearly 17,000 cattle ranchers going out of business each year since 1980. Senator Warren and I have introduced a bipartisan resolution to address these issues. If passed, it will trigger an existing statute that requires the FTC to investigate and report to Congress whether the big packers are engaging in anti-competitive practices, or even breaking antitrust laws, to maintain their stranglehold on the beef packing industry. It’s critical to determine if violations are occurring, or if Congress needs to take further action to strengthen the current anti-trust laws that are on the books.” 

U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) Vice President Justin Tupper issued the following statement: 

“Senator Rounds continues to be a champion for competition in the U.S. Senate. We have not yet received the results of the Department of Justice’s investigation into the beef industry directed by former Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. This is completely unacceptable.

“The bipartisan resolution introduced today directs the Federal Trade Commission to examine the extent of anticompetitive practices and violations of antitrust law in the beef-packing industry AND it sets a date for when the report is due.”



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