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Group Praises Announcement by USDA, Justice Department to Explore Antitrust, Anticompetitive Activities in Ag Markets

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Washington, D.C. In the wake of President Obama's campaign promise to prevent anti-competitive behavior against family farmers and ranchers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (Justice) today announced that both Departments will work together to accomplish this important goal.

The agencies' joint news release states, "the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Justice will hold joint public workshops to explore competition issues affecting the agriculture industry in the 21st century and the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement in that industry."

This announcement came less than a week after R-CALFUSA met in Washington, D.C., with numerous officials from Justice's antitrust division and with USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) Administrator.

"During that meeting, R-CALFUSA delivered a 61-page presentation demonstrating that the U.S. cattle market is suffering from antitrust activities and anticompetitive practices by the highly concentrated beef packing industry," said R-CALFUSA CEO Bill Bullard. "We provided charts and graphs that demonstrate the entire U.S. livestock industry is in a severe state of crisis, including 12 specific examples demonstrating market failure in the U.S. cattle market."

These 12 examples include:

1) a disconnect between cattle prices and beef prices;

2) an increasing price spread between ranch gate prices and wholesale prices, as well as ranch gate prices and retail prices;

3) a shrinking number of U.S. cattle operations while domestic beef consumption keeps increasing;

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4) an inability for domestic beef production to keep pace with increased beef consumption;

5) an inability for domestic beef production to maintain its share of the total available U.S. beef supply;

6) a long-run lack of profitability for U.S. cattle feeders while retail beef prices climb to record levels;

7) an increase in gross packer margins while cattle feeders suffer extended losses;

8) an above-the-five-year-average retail beef price while cow/calf producers receive below-the-five-year-average prices for calves;

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9) a historical depression in cattle prices when U.S. beef exports rise to record levels;

10) a shrinking number of states that continue to receive above-the-national-average cattle price;

11) a disruption in the historical U.S. cattle cycle; and,

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R-CALF USA, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated (more...)

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