In this file:
· Attorney General Cameron, Agriculture Commissioner Quarles ask Department of Justice to investigate alleged cattle industry price fixing
· ‘Cows will need bred’: Coronavirus is hitting the meat industry all the way up to animal breeders
Attorney General Cameron, Agriculture Commissioner Quarles ask Department of Justice to investigate alleged cattle industry price fixing
Source: Office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron
via WBKO (KY) - May 15, 2020
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles sent a joint letter today to U.S. Attorney General William Barr asking for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the beef packing sector.
The letter notes that, despite steady consumer demand for beef, the prices paid to Kentucky’s cattle producers have declined, suggesting the presence of possible market manipulation and other anticompetitive practices. As a result, Kentucky consumers are paying more for beef while hardworking Kentucky farmers are making less.
“We’re urging DOJ to use the resources at its disposal to fully investigate allegations of anticompetitive practices in the beef processing sector, and we stand ready to assist with such an investigation in any way possible,” said Attorney General Cameron. “Kentucky’s cattle producers and consumers already face incredible economic challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we must ensure that they are treated fairly in the marketplace and do not face additional hardship because of price fixing or other anticompetitive actions. I appreciate Commissioner Quarles partnering with us in this endeavor.”
“As Kentucky and the nation move towards reopening the economy in a quick and responsible manner, consumers and farmers deserve to know if there is a scheme to threaten market competition in the beef industry,” said Commissioner Quarles. “Our beef cattle producers have seen thirty and forty percent price drops since the start of the pandemic, even while the price of beef products at the grocery store has increased. I would like to thank Attorney General Cameron for joining me in this effort to make sure the beef industry isn’t rigged against Kentucky’s 38,000 hardworking cattle producers.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruptions at meat processing plants and created shortages nationwide. With only four beef processors controlling 80 percent of the American market, such disruptions further exacerbate pre-existing disparities between the price of live cattle and the wholesale price of beef.
“On behalf of Kentucky’s beef cattle producers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, let me be the first to express my gratitude for the leadership of Agriculture Commissioner Quarles and Attorney General Daniel Cameron,” said Dave Maples, Executive Director of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association. “Kentucky is the largest beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River, and both of these men understand the negative effects of any possible anticompetitive business practices on both consumers and our producers.”
In the letter, Attorney General Cameron and Commissioner Quarles ask DOJ to use the department’s investigatory resources to conduct an in-depth study of the current economic realities within the cattle industry to determine if anticompetitive practices are being used. Both Cameron and Quarles offer DOJ the resources of their respective offices to assist with such an investigation on behalf of Kentucky consumers.
Read the letter below.
document, plus letter
‘Cows will need bred’: Coronavirus is hitting the meat industry all the way up to animal breeders
Alfred Miller, Louisville Courier Journal
via USA Today - May 17, 2020
SMITHS GROVE, Ky. – Kentucky cattle farmer Joe Lowe would normally drive potential bull buyers to his pastures in his own truck, perhaps suggesting lunch afterward to talk business.
Buyers now ride separately, if they come at all. Others simply phone in their orders.
“Everybody’s just a little on edge, no matter what industry you’re in,” Lowe says.
With meat plants shutting down across the nation because of growing COVID-19 infections among workers, the ripple effect is being felt all the way up the food supply chain, with some farmers delaying the purchase of bulls for breeding – something that could affect the food supply in years to come.
Kentucky produces more cattle annually – 1,000,000 head – than any state east of the Mississippi River. And farmers here take their bull purchases very seriously.
Lowe should know. His family has been raising cattle near western Kentucky’s Barren River since 1799, when Kentucky was still the frontier.
These days, they breed Angus cattle. From a herd of about 400, they sell about 100 Angus bulls, among the most of any farm in the state. Farmers buy the Lowes’ bulls and heifers to breed with their other animals before eventually selling the resulting calves to be fattened for slaughter.
In other words, the Lowes’ animals sit at the apex of the meat supply chain. Just as there’s no meat in grocery stores without slaughterhouses, there are no calves to enter the supply chain without bulls.
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