"Only in the ivory tower boardroom of a multibillion dollar company, where corporate executives are completely disconnected from cattle producers and food consumers, could a strategy like this be concocted," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. "To reverse its tarnished image, it is my opinion that Tyson has now decided to use money extracted from Schumacher to help feed other farmers and ranchers who are facing economic disaster largely because Tyson and other meatpackers engage in practices that federal fact-finding jurors have found to be unlawful.
"Tyson had a unique opportunity to demonstrate it could still be a good neighbor even while it was fighting us in Congress about the issue of corporate control over the U.S. livestock industry," he continued. "But, as expected, Tyson rejected the notion that it should rise to meet a higher moral standard and, instead, is clinging o whatever the legal system will allow it to have."
Bullard said Tyson was found by a federal district court jury to have damaged Herman Schumacher and other cattle producers. The damages occurred during the period when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) underreported beef prices in 2001. Court records show that, "The jury carefully found that defendants (Tyson and other meatpackers) knew of USDA's reporting errors on April 24, 2001, and took advantage of such knowledge thereafter." In addition, court records show that the federal district court judge found, "There is no dispute that the jury found defendants liable for damages for violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act ("PSA"). The jury awarded Schumacher and the other cattle producers harmed by the meatpackers $9.25 million dollars. The jury's verdict, however, was overturned on appeal on a technicality. The appellate court ruled it was not enough to prove that packers engaged in unlawful conduct. It ruled that in order to prove a violation of the PSA, "a plaintiff must show that a packer intentionally committed unlawful conduct."
As a result of the appellate court's decision, Tyson and the other packers were allowed not only to keep the $9.25 million, representing the jury's calculation of actual damages suffered by Schumacher and other cattle producers, but also were allowed to go after Schumacher for court costs. That is exactly what Tyson has done. As a result of Tyson's actions, the U.S. Marshals Service posted official "No Trespassing" and "Warning" signs on Schumacher's home, requiring him to pay nearly $16,000 to Tyson or his home will be sold.
"This clash between cattle producers and Tyson would have been avoided if USDA had not failed for more than a decade to properly enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act, which Congress had passed to protect cattle ranchers from the anticompetitive practices and antitrust activities of the highly concentrated meatpackers," Bullard concluded. "Cattle producers like Schumacher have no means to protect either their livelihoods or their markets from the ongoing advances of dominant meatpackers like Tyson."
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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. R-CALF USA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALF USA has dozens of affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.