ICA Applauds Request for DOJ Investigation into Cattle and Beef Pricing

| May 8, 2020

Contact: Katie Olthoff, Director of Communications, Iowa Cattlemen's Association, 515-296-2266

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association supports the announcement by several elected officials to urge a Department of Justice (DOJ) federal investigation into market manipulation in the beef industry caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 5, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and a bipartisan group of attorneys general from 10 other states asked for the investigation into price differences between boxed beef prices set and collected by packers and live cattle prices received by cattle producers.

ICA has been concerned about the continual decrease in fed cattle prices while boxed beef prices have continued to rise. The spread between these two numbers has burdened feedlot operators while the processing sector seems to be benefiting from the higher beef values.

President Donald Trump told reporters on May 6 that he too has asked the Department of Justice to look into allegations that U.S. meat packers broke antitrust laws because of the differences in prices paid to farmers and ranchers and the prices of boxed beef headed to consumers.

“It shouldn’t be happening that way and we want to protect our farmers,” Trump said. “They are looking into that very strongly—supply and demand should not allow that to happen.”

Back on April 1, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley called on the Departments of Justice and Agriculture to investigate potential market manipulation and other illegal activity by large meat packing companies in the cattle industry.

“With the shelf price of meat at record highs and with the high rate of concentration in the meatpacking industry, there are concerns that the difference in these margins is the result of illegal practices,” Grassley wrote.

ICA applauds the current requests by the the elected officials, joining 20 other state cattlemen’s associations in a recent letter requesting the DOJ and USDA investigate these market disturbances.

“The repeated occurence of these market disruptions in our industry shows an investigation is needed to determine why, under separate events, we are seeing these price differences,” says Matt Deppe, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association CEO. “We need the DOJ to get involved and speed up the timeline because we need information and answers in regard to Holcomb and COVID-19.”

Miller’s office indicated concerns from cattle producers across the state about these price differences and the need to investigate and bring additional awareness to these issues.

The attorneys general say these price margins are a sign that meat packers are using their ability to control the market for processed beef and passing that higher price on to consumers who are currently struggling due to unemployment and reduced incomes.

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About the Iowa Cattlemen's Association: The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association represents nearly 10,000 beef-producing families and associated companies dedicated to the future of Iowa’s beef industry. ICA’s mission is “Grow Iowa’s beef business through advocacy, leadership and education.”