Congress’ look into cattle market manipulation

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 7:55 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Congress is taking a closer look at alleged market manipulation in the packing industry. The Senate Agriculture Committee hosted a hearing to examine markets, transparency, and prices from cattle producers to consumers Wednesday.

South Dakota cattle producer and United States Cattlemen’s Association Vice President Justin Tupper, who was asked to testify, says something isn’t adding up in the cattle market supply chain.

“Even with boxed beef at record highs, we’re not seeing that trickle down to the producer level,” said Tupper.

Tupper says the nation’s four largest meatpackers (JBS SA, Cargill Meat Solutions, National Beef Packing Co., and Tyson Foods) have saturated the market. He fears they’re using a captive supply and deceptive trade practices to turn profits while causing consumers and producers to take a financial hit.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have publicly called on the Department of Justice to investigate these claims.

“My job is to make sure family farmers have an even playing field and they have some transparency so that they understand what’s happening and what’s going on in the market,” said Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.)

“The producers need to come around to a solution so that we can go to work and get something against the finish line,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Several other industry experts offered up statistics or suggestions for policy changes during the hearing.

Representatives from the large processors were not in attendance, although Mark Gardiner from Gardiner Angus ranch in Kansas has investment ties with National Beef.

He did not respond to our request for an interview, but in his testimony, he defended the processors’ value-based pricing system.

He encouraged Congress to shy away from additional legislation, saying the supply chain concerns can mostly be blamed on recent black swan events like the pandemic, and a 2019 Tyson plant fire in Kansas.

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