The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) joined 22 other state cattle organizations this week in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, requesting a formal investigation by the Department of Justice, to identify and look in to any evidence of anti-competitive or fraudulent business practices within the beef packing sector. The letter was prompted by two recent extreme beef market shifts due to the fire at a Tyson processing plant in August and more recently due to COVID-19.
MSGA believes determining evidence of any fraudulent business practices within the meatpacking industry is vital to our producer’s continuity of business and needs to be identified quickly and rectified immediately.
“We have long supported an investigation into this issue. Last August MSGA supported USDA’s investigation following the packing plant fire and again in March during the first impacts of COVID-19,” said Fred Wacker, MSGA President. “We’re hoping by joining together with other states, we can show the DOJ just how serious this issue is.”
“The nature of previous and current concern in both situations is extreme market degradation to the producer segment quickly followed by sharp increases and unseasonal profitability to the packing segment through boxed beef prices,” penned the 23 state cattle organizations. “The repeat nature of these market reactions absolutely emphasizes how the production sector of the industry is exposed to the highest potential for risk with little-to-no leverage to change that risk position.”
The letter explains both the packing plant fire and COVID-19 situations, and how they have impacted the market and negatively affected the producer. Both situations saw average cash fed cattle prices drop while packing plants maintained harvest capacity and boxed beef values increased significantly. Only now, COVID-19 includes logistical stressors on the nation’s food production and distribution system.
This is of vital importance to the future of one of the largest sectors of U.S. agriculture. Both events continue the undue financial burden for all cattle producers within the production side of the beef cattle industry and in turn affect rural America short-term and long-term.
The letter was also signed by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.
Check out the full letter at mtbeef.org/market-investigation
Montana Stockgrowers Association/Northern Ag Network