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US Rep. Hawley Pushes Bills Targeting Meatpacking Industry

 |  August 23, 2021

There are more than 95,000 farms in Missouri with the Show Me State placing among the nation’s top 10 in terms of beef, chicken, and pork production, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

But consolidation within the meatpacking industry – four firms (JBS, Tyson, Cargill, National Beef) control more than 80% of all the beef slaughtered in the United States – has long frustrated Missouri producers.

The Missouri Farm Bureau (MOFB) has for years called for federal action to promote competition, protect consumers and address market manipulation that includes allegations of widespread price-fixing and collusion.

Last year, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined 10 other state attorneys general in calling on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate alleged unfair and illegal trade practices in the meatpacking industry.

In May 2020, Missouri’s junior US Sen. Josh Hawley requested then-US Attorney William Barr to initiate an antitrust investigation into “the highly concentrated beef packing sector.”

Hawley has also asked for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to open an antitrust investigation into the meatpacking industry. Then-President Donald Trump followed through with the request and the DOJ opened an investigation into the matter.

That investigation is bearing fruit. On June 3, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division announced indictments of four senior executives for price fixing in the chicken market. Two days later, the DOJ said it launched an investigation into the nation’s s four largest meat processors.

Earlier in August, Hawley also asked US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to investigate alleged fraud and “anti-competitive behavior” from large meatpacking companies, including Tyson Foods, JBS and WH Group.

“The biggest firms will not curb their anticompetitive practices unless they face a penalty that impacts their bottom line. Big companies require big penalties,” Hawley wrote in an August 4 letter to Vilsack. “Federal statute provides you with robust authority to revoke inspection services following convictions for fraudulent behavior in the marketplace.”

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