In this file:
· Tester and Grassley: Threat of meat shortages is growing. Senate needs to act now.
· Bipartisan lawmakers ask for beef-packing probe
Tester and Grassley: Threat of meat shortages is growing. Senate needs to act now.
American farmers and ranchers are facing a grave crisis, and it could hurt every family who buys meat at a grocery store.
Jon Tester and Chuck Grassley, Opinion contributors
via USA Today - Jun 29, 2020
Sen. Jon Tester is a Democrat from Montana; Sen. Chuck Grassley is a Republican from Iowa.
As two farmers from rural America who moonlight as U.S. senators, we know that many folks who live in urban centers may be unfamiliar with how meat goes from farms and ranches in Montana and Iowa to grocery stores in New York or Los Angeles.
But it requires only a brief look under the hood of the beef supply chain to diagnose the grave crisis currently facing American farmers and ranchers, and the growing threat of shortages for every American family who buys meat at the grocery store.
Beef begins its journey through the supply chain at one of our nation’s cow-calf operators, who raise cattle for the first nine months of the animal’s life before transferring them to a feeder for fattening. When a cow is ready to harvest, they are taken to a processing facility — or meat packing plant — where they are slaughtered and packaged before the beef is shipped to grocery stores or exported.
Corporate giants control market
But in recent decades, the packing industry has become dangerously consolidated. Currently, only four large corporations control 80 percent of America’s meat processing capacity, running massive processing plants and industrial feed lots.
These corporate giants use their market share to drive down cash, or “spot,” prices for cattle and then use those depressed prices to set formulas to buy cows from independent farmers, ranchers and feeders for dirt cheap, all while raising meat prices at the grocery store.
And this problem started long before the pandemic, which has exposed the dangers of this consolidated industry by infecting thousands of plant employees, shutting down a quarter of our nation’s meat processing capacity, making it more difficult for families to find meat at the grocery store, and jeopardizing our nation’s food supply chain.
The consequences are real. In the past 20 years, American families have seen meat prices more than double while prices ranchers are getting for their cattle have risen less than half that. You don’t need to be an economist to know that when you have only a few corporations determining prices and the price at the farm gate is going down but the price of packaged beef is going up, you’re not dealing with a capitalistic system.
Small cattle producers may be lost ...
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Bipartisan lawmakers ask for beef-packing probe
By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today
via Richmond Register (KY) - Jun 28, 2020
FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - A bipartisan group of state lawmakers joined Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Attorney General Daniel Cameron in asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the beef packing sector.
House and Senate members of the Interim Joint Agriculture Committee from both parties signed a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, stressing the need for confidence in the beef cattle market.
“We have heard from our constituents across the commonwealth about the wide disparity between the price of cattle and the price of processed beef,” the legislators wrote. “Some of us are cattlemen ourselves and have personally witnessed this disparity.”
The co-chairs of the committee are Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield.
“I am grateful to the bipartisan group of legislators who have joined the attorney general and me in asking the Department of Justice to keep a watchful eye on suspect price disparities between the price of beef at the farm level and at the grocery store,” Quarles stated. “It is critical Kentucky’s constitutional officers have the support from the General Assembly so we can have a united front on issues facing Kentucky families.”
Cameron also expressed gratitude for the lawmakers’ support, adding, “Kentucky’s cattle producers deserve answers about why they are continuing to make less, even as the price of beef increases.”
On May 15, Quarles and Cameron sent a letter to Barr asking the DOJ to look at possible price-fixing in the beef cattle industry. The letter noted...