The Missouri Cattlemen's Association, along with 22 other state cattle organizations, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr today, April 20, 2020, requesting a formal investigation by the United States Department of Justice to identify and investigate any evidence of fraudulent business practices within the beef meatpacking industry. The letter was prompted by extreme beef market volatility following the fire of a Tyson processing plant in August and the current coronavirus crisis (COVID-19), according to a release from the Missouri Cattlemen's Association.
"Our members are facing economic and financial destruction during the current crisis, which is compounded by the extreme market shift following the fire in Holcomb, Kansas, eight months ago," said MCA President Marvin Dieckman said in the release. "One segment of the industry is making unprecedented profits while the rest of us are counting pennies. We can not afford to wait another eight months for results of an investigation. We need DOJ to open an investigation immediately."
The 23 state cattle organizations made clear in the letter that these events have emphasized how volatile cattle producers are.
"The nature of previous and current concern in both situations is extreme market degradation to the producer segment quickly followed by sharp increases and unseasonal profitability to the packing segment through boxed beef prices," penned the 23 state cattle organizations. "The repeat nature of these market reactions absolutely emphasizes how the production sector of the industry is exposed to the highest potential for risk with little-to-no leverage to change that risk position."
While USDA is still investigating subsequent to the fire and have added the current crisis to that investigation, the organizations collectively believe DOJ engagement is critical.
"We understand and acknowledge there is a pending USDA investigation. However, as our industry looks for clarity of business function moving forward, we believe the DOJ would be the appropriate agency to open an investigation and also support USDA in its investigation allowing this process to be concluded in a timely manner," the letter stated. "This is of vital importance to the future of one of the largest sectors of U.S. agriculture."
According to Dieckman, both events continue the undue financial burden for all cattle producers within the production side of the beef cattle industry and in turn affect rural America short-term and long-term.
In addition to MCA, the letter was signed by Alabama Cattlemen's Association; Arizona Cattle Growers' Association; Arkansas Cattlemen's Association; Georgia Cattlemen's Association; Hawaii Cattlemen's Council; Illinois Beef Association; Iowa Cattlemen's Association; Michigan Cattlemen's Association; Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association; Mississippi Cattlemen's Association; Montana Stockgrowers Association;North Carolina Cattlemen's Association; North Dakota Stockmen's Association; Ohio Cattlemen's Association; Oregon Cattlemen's Association; South Dakota Cattlemen's Association; Tennessee Cattlemen's Association; Utah Cattlemen's Association; Washington Cattlemen's Association; West Virginia Cattlemen's Association; Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association; and Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Click here for the letter.