For Immediate Release: November 22, 2021
Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard
Phone: 406-252-2516; email@example.com
Billings, Mont. – In an urgent letter sent today to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry (Committee), R-CALF USA urged the rejection of S.3229, the cattle market reform compromise reached last week between Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and to take no action similar to S.3229.
The letter states: “We implore you and your committee to take no action pending the conclusion of our class action antitrust case and/or the conclusion of the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into the nation’s largest packers that would potentially cause or have the effect of a congressional sanctioning of the current proportion of cash versus non-cash purchases. Unfortunately, this is precisely the unintended effect that S.3229 would have.”
The letter points out that neither Congress nor the executive branch had initiated needed cattle market reforms for decades and that prompted R-CALF USA in 2019 to initiate a historic class action antitrust lawsuit against the four largest beef packers, alleging those packers colluded to depress prices paid to America’s cattle producers.
The Federal District Court for the District of Minnesota recently found that the Plaintiffs in the historic antitrust lawsuit had plausibly pled Defendants’ anticompetitive agreement. The case is now proceeding to the discovery phase of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that the largest beef packers’ reliance on formula and forward contracts for at least 70% of their cattle procurement needs, both facilitated and incentivized their alleged agreement to manipulate the cash cattle market. And the largest packers’ limited participation in the cash cattle market in recent years has resulted in severely depressed cattle prices and record packer margins.
The letter explains that because S.3229 allows at least two years to pass before establishing minimum cash cattle participation requirements, and because such requirements are required to be benchmarked against the low level of participation witnessed in the past 18 months, the compromise bill would lock-in the very market structure that incentivized the alleged anticompetitive conduct alleged in the antitrust lawsuit.
As a substitute for S.3229, the letter urges the Committee to support the new bill announced today by Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), the Protecting America’s Meatpacking Workers Act of 2021, which the letter sates contains cattle market reforms consistent with the group’s aims and may assist in alleviating the market conditions that led to the conduct at issue in the antitrust suit.
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America) is the largest producer-only lobbying and trade association representing U.S. cattle producers. It is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. Visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516 for more information.