Defending Montana Cattle Producers from Price-Gouging Corporations is Aim of Tester’s Bipartisan Bill
Senator’s bill would fight consolidation by appointing a special investigator within USDA to address and prevent anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries
In his continued push to support Montana cattle producers and combat anti-competitive practices in the meat processing industry, Senator Tester today reintroduced his Meat Packing Special Investigator Act to fight consolidation and enforce the nation’s anti-trust laws. The bill is co-led by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).
“Folks in Washington don’t understand that the deck is stacked against Montana’s cattle producers,” Tester said. “As the Senate’s only working farmer, I’ll take on anyone to make sure that Montana’s family farmers and ranchers get a fair chance to compete in the marketplace. For too long, massive multi-national conglomerates have run the tables on our producers—who produce the best beef in the world—and our bipartisan bill will give them the chance to compete on a level playing field.”
“Senator Tester continues to be a champion for Montana’s family farmers and ranchers, and his Meat Packing Special Investigator Act will finally put some much needed competition back in the marketplace,” said Montana Farmers Union President Walt Schweitzer.“Montana ranchers produce a premium product, but multinational corporations have been rigging the game against them for years. Thank you Senator Tester for doing what’s right and fighting to keep Montana’s number one industry strong.”
“The livestock industry thrives on competition, and with any good competition you need a referee,” said Joe Goggins, owner of Billings Livestock Commission. “I applaud Senator Tester for introducing the Special Investigator bill to ensure that we have fair and strong oversight in place.”
“Thank you to Senator Tester for his continued attention to this issue. The Montana Stockgrowers Association strongly supports fairness and transparency in the market,” said John Grande, President, Montana Stockgrowers Association.
“What good is a law if there is no sheriff,” said Richard Liebert, Director, Montana Cattlemen’s Association. The Packers and Stockyards Administration has been downgraded and defunded to the point that it is toothless. This bill by Senator Tester restores the ability for the Department of Agriculture to investigate and prosecute violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. This is great idea. We need a sheriff and he needs to round up a posse.”
“Information moves quickly in agriculture,” said Fred Wacker, Natural Cattle Rancher and Feeder Past President of Montana Stockgrowers Association. “It is imperative that we have the ability to monitor accuracy and fairness in the livestock business. I support Senator Tester for introducing the Special Investigator bill to provide fair competition with our industry.”
“Increased consolidation and anticompetitive tactics by meat packers continues to create unfair markets for meat producers and consumers alike,” Senator Grassley said. “In the last few years, we’ve seen settlement after settlement from major packers accused of distorting the market. It’s time we beef up tools to protect farm families and folks at the meat counter. This bill provides USDA with the necessary tools to strengthen enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, increase coordination with DOJ, FTC, and DHS and to foster a fair and functional marketplace for everyone who grows, produces, and enjoys quality American meat.”
“Anticompetitive behavior in the meat packing industry hurts both consumers and producers,” Senator Rounds said.“Unfortunately, packer concentration in the beef industry is more consolidated today than it was when the Packers and Stockyards Act was first signed into law over 100 years ago. For years, the gap has widened between the price paid to cattle producers for their high-quality American products and the price of beef at the grocery store. Meanwhile, the four largest beef packers, who control 85 percent of our beef processing capacity, have enjoyed record profits. This has resulted in an average of nearly 17,000 cattle ranchers going out of business each year since 1980. This bipartisan legislation seeks to address these anticompetitive practices that threaten the nation’s food supply and run family ranches out of business.”
The bill would create the “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would be comprised of a team of investigators, with subpoena power, responsible for targeting and preventing anti-competitive practices amongst large players in the meat and poultry industries.
As the Senate’s only working farmer, Tester has long been Montana’s leading champion for family farmers and ranchers. He recently re-introduced his bipartisan Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, which would establish minimums for negotiated sales and require clear reporting of marketing contracts.
Last April, Tester testified in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee in support of his bipartisan anti-consolidation bills and in May, he pressed USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on how the Biden Administration planned to tackle the anti-competitive practices jacking up consumer prices and putting Montana ranchers out of business.
Last month, Tester also reintroduced his bipartisan American Beef Labeling Act, which would reinstate mandatory country of origin labeling for beef, adding more transparency to the beef industry, and give American producers a fair shake.
Finally, earlier this month, as a direct response to Tester’s push, USDA launched its pilot Cattle Contracts Library to increase cattle pricing transparency and help cattle producers take advantage of opportunities to better compete in the marketplace.