Tester to Attorney General: Open Investigation Into Cattle Market Price Fixing During Pandemic

Montana ranchers recently saw the steepest price decline in 40 years

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today demanded that 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.

“The profit discrepancies between packers and independent ranchers is egregious, and merits a long-overdue antitrust investigation into the consolidated meat packing industry,” wrote Tester and three of his colleagues. “The Federal government must act on this issue soon or American’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.”

Tester highlighted that price irregularities in the beef market have been present for some time, but have been made worse by the nationwide outbreak of the coronavirus.

The senators continued, “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.”

Tester has championed providing relief to cattle producers in the face of the pandemic, and after Montana’s ranchers recently saw the steepest price decline for cattle in forty years, Tester demanded that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue take immediate action to stabilize beef markets.

As the Senate’s only working farmer, Tester has led the fight to make sure Montana producers have the certainty they need to get through the coronavirus pandemic. Just this week, he secured an expansion of the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loan and Emergency Economic Injury Grant Programs to include ag businesses, farms, and ranches with fewer than 500 employees. He also recently sent a letter to Secretary Perdue urging the Trump Administration to grant farmers more flexibility in their Farm Service Agency loans in order to ensure the continuity of the country’s food supply and support rural areas during the coronavirus pandemic by providing critical relief to producers.

Read Tester’s full letter HERE.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak.