WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, all R-Wyo., are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of a lamb processing plant for potential anti-competitive practices.
According to a letter the delegation sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Brazilian beef packing company JBS S.A. recently acquired Mountain States Rosen, a lamb processing plant in Greeley, Colo., that filed for bankruptcy due to the decline of the domestic sheep industry and complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mountain States Rosen was one of the largest lamb packaging plants in the country, processing about 20% of the U.S. lamb market. JBS S.A. reportedly intends to remove the lamb processing equipment from the plant and use the facility for beef production, leaving only one domestic lamb processor in the region.
“This acquisition leaves thousands of lamb producers in Wyoming and the region with a surplus of lambs that cannot be processed at suitable facilities,” the delegation wrote. “This sale leaves producers who have dedicated their lives to sheep production with little to no recourses to sell their product and almost absolute financial disaster when agriculture producers, supply chains, and markets are already struggling due to complications surrounding COVID-19.”
The delegation said there are growing anti-trust concerns with JBS’s purchase and reported desire to halt all lamb processing, adding that it could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic harm to the sheep industry. The Mountain States Rosen plant sale was finalized on July 31, 2020.
“The Department of Agriculture must act expediently to investigate these concerning circumstances and evaluate the potential for anti-competitive practices in the lamb market,” the delegation wrote.
Full text of the letter is available here.