Sen. Doug Jones presses AG Barr to investigate cattle market price fixing

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Special to the
Opelika Observer

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and his colleagues are demanding U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, open an investigation into reports of price fixing in the cattle market in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Joining Senator Jones in the letter are Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).


“The profit discrepancies between packers and independent ranchers is egregious, and merits a long-overdue antitrust investigation into the consolidated meat packing industry,” wrote Senator Jones and his colleagues. “The Federal government must act on this issue soon or America’s cow calf operators, as well as small and medium size feeders will go out of business while multi-national corporations continue to reap record profits.”


The letter continues, “Evidence of price fixing is now even clearer as the nation reacts to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet again, as the demand for beef increases nationwide, live cattle futures are sinking. We are hearing from ranchers that it is not feasible to sell their cattle at such low futures and still hope to break even. In a time when Americans are consuming more beef than ever before, it is confounding that ranchers are struggling, while meat packers take home record profits…The nation’s food supply chain is an issue of national security.”


Senator Jones has championed providing relief to Alabama’s farmers and producers in the 2018 Farm Bill and in a letter to SBA to include farmers in the CARES Act. Farmers in Alabama have been shut out from accessing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds provided through the CARES Act due to IRS filing differences that separate them from other small businesses. Senator Jones has urged SBA to make necessary adjustments in guidance so farmers, producers, and businesses are explicitly included as Congress intended, and he is also calling on President Trump toeliminate payment limits for livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

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