LINCOLN, NEB. – The Nebraska Farm Bureau is encouraging the U.S. Department of Justice to utilize all its authorities and undertake a “full investigation” to monitor and address any potential price fixing or market manipulations in U.S. cattle markets to ensure the cattle meat packing industry is in compliance with the federal antitrust laws targeted to maintaining a competitive marketplace. In an April 14 letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson pointed to the alarming disparity between farm-level prices received by farmers and ranchers for cattle and wholesale prices for beef following the fire and subsequent closure of a beef processing plant in Kansas and the current COVID-19 outbreak, where cattle producers have experienced sharp declines in market prices while large margin increases occurred in the meat packing sector.
“Both of these events have highlighted long-term concerns expressed by cattle producers and now is the time for the department to fully examine the situation and fully prosecute any wrongdoing,” said Nelson.
Price disparity and volatility is critically frustrating for cattle producers who have seen the prices received for their commodities fall off a cliff at a time when meat counters and store shelves across the country have been less than fully stocked.
“We cannot afford to lose confidence in the integrity of the futures market nor the price discovery efforts in cash markets, on top of the many other market disruptions and stresses farmers and ranchers are facing today,” said Nelson. “A full Department of Justice investigation in partnership with the recently expanded investigation already occurring at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would help ensure laws are being followed and help restore confidence in marketing institutions.”
Nebraska Farm Bureau’s letter to the Attorney General comes on the heels of a letter from Nebraska Farm Bureau to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, where the organization encouraged USDA to work with both the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure all anti-competition laws are being rigorously followed.
“In these uncertain times, it’s important our nation’s food producers know that our laws are being properly followed and enforced. We thank the Attorney General for his consideration of this request and for all his efforts on behalf of Nebraska’s farm and ranch families,” said Nelson.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service, and advocacy efforts. More than 58,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.