Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) sent a follow-up letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide an update on its investigation into potential price fixing or market manipulation activity to ensure the cattle meatpacking industry is in compliance with the goals of federal antitrust laws in maintaining a competitive marketplace. According to an NEFB press release, the organisation has been seeking an update for the ongoing investigation for more than two years.
“The fire at the Tyson beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kansas combined with the COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial volatility within the cattle and beef marketplace,» said Mark McHargue, NEFB president. «While we understand both unexpected events caused significant market disruption, the unprecedented spread between the prices cattle producers received compared to box beef prices led many beef producers, who saw the market price for their animals shrink, question the substantial profits being made by the meat processing sector.»
“The recently announced $52.5 million settlement by JBS concerning a case focused on alleged price-fixing during the pandemic leads to even further questions,» he continued. «As we wrote back in 2020, a full DOJ investigation would help ensure laws are being followed and help restore confidence in marketing institutions.”
For more than two years, Nebraska’s cattle producers have seen two significant market disruptions which have impacted the nation’s slaughter capacity as well as market prices. The subsequent spread between retail beef prices and the money received by cattle producers has led to significant conversations over the laws governing our nation’s meat supply.
“The DOJ began its investigation after excessive volatility in the live and fed cattle markets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020,» said McHargue. «Providing an update on the department’s investigation into this matter is vital to ensuring that confidence. We look forward to hearing from the DOJ regarding their investigation, so we can update Farm Bureau members and assure them that adequate government oversight is being conducted in the nation’s cattle markets, and that the markets remain fair for businesses and farm and ranch families.»