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Congressman Guest calling on DOJ to update Congress on Cattle Market Investigations

Cattle market prices in Mississippi are up from a year ago as China has lifted its ban on U.S. beef. Black Angus cows graze at the H.H. Leveck Animal Research Center at Mississippi State University Sept. 6, 2017. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Lindsay Pace)

Congressman Michael Guest (R-MS) and Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL) sent 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 Mississippi 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.

Here’s the full text:

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.

Cosigners Include: Trent Kelly (MS-01); Sanford Bishop (GA-02); Rick Crawford (AR-01); Rick Allen (GA-12); William Timmons (SC-04); Austin Scott (GA-08); Scott DesJarlais (TN-04); Mike Rogers (AL-03); Scott Franklin (FL-15); Bill Posey (FL-08); Kat Cammack (FL-03); Clay Higgins (LA-03); Bruce Westerman (AR-04); Tom Rice (SC-07); Ralph Norman (SC-05); Garret Graves (LA-06); Jeff Duncan (SC-03); Barry Moore (AL-02); Diana Harshbarger (TN-01); John Rose (TN-06); Julia Letlow (LA-05); Drew Ferguson (GA-03); Steven Palazzo (MS-04); Joe Wilson (SC-02); David Rouzer (NC-07); Madison Cawthorn (NC-11); Gregory F. Murphy (NC-03); Mike Johnson (LA-04); Robert Aderholt (AL-04); Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03); Frank Lucas (OK-03); Gregory W. Steube (FL-17); Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25); Bob Gibbs (OH-07); Mariannette Miller-Meeks, M.D. (IA-02); Mary E. Miller (IL-15); Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16); Bill Johnson (OH-06); Adrian Smith (NE-03); Warren Davidson (OH-08); James Comer (KY-01); Vicky Hartzler (MO-04); Cliff Bentz (OR-02); Lisa McClain (MI-10); Michelle Fischbach (MN-07); Tom Cole (OK-04); Markwayne Mullin (OK-02); Liz Cheney (WY-AL); Stephanie Bice (OK-05); David G. Valadao (CA-21).

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