In this file:
· Agriculture Department refuses to investigate Trump bailouts to Brazilian meatpacker despite swirling corruption scandal
· USDA takes heat as Democrats seek probe into trade aid
· Brazil antitrust regulator opens probe
Agriculture Department refuses to investigate Trump bailouts to Brazilian meatpacker despite swirling corruption scandal
By Chris Sommerfeldt, New York Daily News
Feb 11, 2020
After months of silence, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently confirmed he won’t launch an internal investigation into why his agency has given a corruption-riddled Brazilian meatpacker millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bailouts meant for down-and-out American farmers.
Responding to a request from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Perdue wrote in a Jan. 31 letter there’s no need for him to order his agency’s inspector general to probe the bailouts to JBS USA, an American subsidiary of Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS SA, because the company is already under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“Given that you indicate DOJ and SEC are far down the path with their investigations, then they are fully aware of all potential remedies at their disposal,” Perdue wrote in the previously undisclosed letter, which was issued nearly three months after DeLauro’s request. “To avoid any conflict with those investigations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will not take any action in that regard.”
Perdue did not say in the one-page letter — which was obtained by the Daily News on Tuesday — whether his department would stop awarding product bailouts to JBS USA in the meantime.
A spokesman for Perdue did not respond to a question on the matter, but the department has awarded several such bailout contracts to JBS USA since The News first reported on the investigations last spring.
To date, JBS USA has raked in more than $100 million in taxpayer dollars that President Trump put away in a bailout pot meant to help alleviate the financial burdens of American farmers struggling because of his administration’s trade war with China.
Perdue maintains the bailouts eventually trickle down to the farmers because JBS USA partners with them.
But lawmakers on both sides of aisle have questioned why the payments are being filtered through a foreign-owned company instead of going straight to U.S. farmers — especially considering Joesley and Wesley Batista, a couple of notoriously corrupt brothers who control JBS SA, have admitted to bribing hundreds of Brazilian government officials to secure illicit bank loans in addition to other crimes.
Some of those loans were used to bankroll JBS’ U.S. business foray, according to Brazilian lawmakers. As a result, Trump-boosting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called on the Treasury Department in October to look into whether JBS USA and the company’s other American subsidiaries should be liquidated.
DeLauro says the Agriculture Department’s own protocols mandate JBS USA be barred altogether from qualifying for federal contracts because of the scandals and mounting evidence of wrongdoing on the part of its owners...
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USDA takes heat as Democrats seek probe into trade aid
By Sylvan Lane, The Hill
The top watchdog at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) took heat Tuesday from Democrats who are demanding an internal probe into trade-related aid payments to the subsidiary of a Brazilian corporation under criminal investigation.
Democrats on a House Appropriations subcommittee urged USDA Inspector General (IG) Phyllis Fong to investigate whether the department should continue funding meatpacking company JBS USA with aid designed to support farmers hindered by President Trump’s trade battles.
Fong declined to say whether her office would probe JBS USA’s parent company while it is being investigated by the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission, but noted that she is required to coordinate with federal law enforcement.
Fong’s answer did little to appease Democrats who have called on the USDA to take its own action after they were rebuffed by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who declined in January to investigate the company during the DOJ probe.
“I’m making an assumption that the Secretary condones the use of taxpayer dollars. In order to subsidize a corrupt foreign-owned corporation and engaged in illegal activity,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who asked USDA in a November letter to investigate and halt payments to JBS.
“You are independent. That's what makes the IG so critically important to all of us here.”
In a Jan. 31 response to DeLauro made public Tuesday, Perdue said the USDA “will not take any action” that could interfere with the DOJ and SEC investigations “unless requested” by those agencies.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) bemoaned the fact that JBS USA received more aid than all of Wisconsin’s dairy farmers as his state reels from a string of farm bankruptcies.
“I think they deserve some bigger answers,” Pocan said. “If we could do that in the Inspector General report I know it would be appreciated.”
JBS USA, the second-largest U.S. meat processing company, has received roughly $67 million in USDA grants intended to go to pork farmers who lost sales to China and Europe due to response to Trump’s tariffs. But the payments to JBS USA have provoked bipartisan backlash over the company’s foreign ownership and connections to a Brazilian bribery scandal.
JBS USA is the American subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian meat conglomerate owned by brothers Joesely and Wesely Batista. The Batistas admitted to spending roughly $150 million to bribe more than 1,800 Brazilian government officials to secure $1.3 billion in loans from the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and federal pension funds.
The DOJ and SEC are investigating whether JBS S.A. violated federal anti-corruption laws and financial disclosure laws by using illegally obtained domestic grants to expand into the U.S. meat industry.
Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to conduct an investigation into JBS through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., a secretive Treasury panel with expansive power over foreign business operations in the U.S.
JBS USA spokesman Cameron Bruett said...
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Brazil antitrust regulator opens probe
Move comes after executives of meat packers JBS and BRF said corn prices would be passed on
By Ricardo Brito, Reuters
via Manitoba Co-operator (Canada) - February 11, 2020
Reuters – Brazilian antitrust regulator Cade on Jan. 30 opened an investigation into meat packers JBS SA and BRF SA, according to a decision signed by the agency’s superintendent.
The decision said the probe was launched based on an article in Brazilian newspaper Valor Economico that described executives of the two companies saying at an event in Sao Paulo the day before that they would have to pass through a 30 per cent rise in corn costs to chicken prices.
Reuters was present at the event and witnessed the remarks by JBS chief executive, Gilberto Tomazoni and BRF’s CEO, Lorival Luz.
Tomazoni stated that corn prices have risen sharply...