timeline of events
“My grandkids won’t even have the opportunity to think about being a rancher or farmer if this structure doesn’t change.”
– Curtis Martin, Rancher, North Powder, OR
R-CALF Lawsuit against The Big Four
R-CALF USA announced a lawsuit against the “big four” packers who, they allege, violated U.S. antitrust laws, the Packers and Stockyards Act, and the Commodity Exchange Act by unlawfully depressing the prices paid to American ranchers.
On April 23, 2019, the cattlemen’s group based out of Billings, said Tyson Foods, Inc., JBS S.A., Cargill, Inc., and National Beef Packing Company, LLC, and certain of their affiliates from at least January 1, 2015 through the present, conspired to depress the price of fed cattle they purchased from American ranchers, thereby inflating their own margins and profits.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/r-calf-files-suit-against-big-4-packers/
“An investigation has revealed that for years, major food corporations have engaged in illegal conduct regarding the marketing and sale of beef products, causing millions of U.S. consumers to be deceived during their purchases of products such as hamburgers, ground beef and steak.” Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP
Hagens Berman is seeking reimbursement for these illegal actions by leading food manufacturers that have deceived purchasers of beef products.
Lawsuit Status and Documents: https://www.hbsslaw.com/cases/beef-antitrust
Tyson Plant Fire in Holcomb, KS
President of Tyson’s Fresh Meats Division says a spark from welding during maintenance likely caused the fire that heavily damaged the company’s plant near Holcomb in Finney County.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/fire-shuts-down-ks-tyson-plant/
Holcomb Fire Investigation Begins
“As part of our continued efforts to monitor the impact of the fire at the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kan., I have directed USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division to launch an investigation into recent beef pricing margins to determine if there is any evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions of competition or other unfair practices.” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue
R-CALF Statement: Statement Regarding USDA Investigation of Tyson Fire Aftermath
Western Ag Reporter Launches #FairCattleMarkets Campaign
On behalf of cow-calf producers and independent cattle feeders nationwide, Western Ag Reporter is launching a Twitter campaign asking President Donald Trump for assistance in rebalancing the cattle markets. The ever-widening gap between packer profit margins and producer’s price for cattle has raised concern across the countryside.
More information: https://westernagreporter.com/fair-cattle-markets.php
"Rally to Stop the Stealin'!" in Omaha
Cattle producers rallied in a daylong event at an Omaha hotel, calling on President Donald Trump to bring more fairness to cattle markets and to reduce the influence of imported beef and cattle on U.S. market prices.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/fair-cattle-markets/
Brazilian Beef approved for shipment
Brazilian Agriculture Minister said the United States reopened its market for Brazilian fresh beef exports, effective immediately.
Fresh beef from that country has not been allowed since June 2017 when some shipments didn’t meet food safety requirements.
The country is a leading exporter of beef, and two of the United States major meatpackers, JBS and National Beef are Brazilian-owned.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/brazil-beef-approved-for-shipment-to-us/
Court rules against R-CALF USA in checkoff case
Judge Brian Morris US District Court judge, denied R-CALF USA’s request for an injunction to stop certain state beef councils from collecting checkoff dollars.
R-CALF had alleged that because some state beef councils (including Montana and South Dakota) are not appointed by the government or elected by payers of the checkoff, that they are not producing government speech.
Each qualified state beef council (QSBC) collects $1 from cattle producers for each head of cattle sold. They are to send $.50 to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and use the remainder for beef promotion, research and education.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/court-rules-against-r-calf-usa-in-checkoff-case/
NCBA Response: State Beef Councils Win Major Legal Victory
Coronavirus hits the packing industry
Packing plants begin to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read more on TSLN.com (Smithfield): https://www.tsln.com/news/packing-plants-deal-with-coronavirus/
Read more on TSLN.com (JBS): https://www.tsln.com/news/a-link-missing-from-the-chain-a-conversation-with-jbs/
Boxed Beef prices soar
At the end of February boxed beef was priced at $205, by May 4th they had doubled to $410. Prices peaked on May 12th, 2020 at $475.39.
USDA investigation extended
The Department of Agriculture has expanded an existing investigation into pricing practices in the beef industry to also include recent developments brought about by the spread of the coronavirus.
The news, confirmed by Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue in a tweet, follows several requests from Capitol Hill and the cattle industry to take a look at shifting margins between packer and producer profits.
R-CALF Introduces M-COOL Petition
“Petition to Immediately Pass Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for Beef, Pork and Dairy Products”
In response to the COVID-19 Crisis, the President and Congress should immediately pass Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for beef, pork and dairy products to strengthen national food security and help stimulate economic growth.
Within 7 days, the petition hit 250k signatures.
The petition can be found at http://www.demandusabeef.com
Meat Processing deemed "Essential"
President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order to keep meat and poultry processing facilities open during the COVID-19 national emergency.
NCBA Response: https://www.ncba.org/newsreleases.aspx?NewsID=7244
DOJ Investigation announcement
President Trump asked the Department of Justice, on May 6, 2020 to investigate meatpacker pricing activity.
“I’ve asked the Justice Department to look into it. … I’ve asked them to take a very serious look into it because it shouldn’t be happening that way and we want to protect our farmers.”
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/president-trump-to-department-of-justice-investigate-meatpackers/
50/14 Legislation Introduced
Senator Chuck Grassley and others introduced legislation that would require larger meat packers to buy at least half of their weekly beef slaughter on the open market, and mandates that cattle are delivered within 14 days of delivery.
Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines signed onto a resolution to reinstate Country-of-Origin (COOL) labeling for pork and beef. Similarly, Congressman Greg Gianforte sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to find a meaningful solution to allow accurate labeling of U.S. beef.
Read the resolution: https://www.daines.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/PAT20485.pdf
CFAP Payments Announced
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance (CFAP) program on April 17, 2020. Beginning May 26, USDA’s Farm Service Agency will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/cfap/
Official Website: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap
PRIME Act Reintroduced
The PRIME Act was first introduced on May 21st, 2019.
Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) re-introduced the PRIME (Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption) Act again in May 2020. The bill would loosen regulations to allow meat such as beef, pork or lamb from custom kill plants (not state or federally-inspected) to be sold to consumers, restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, and grocery stores.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/prime-act-would-encourage-local-meat-sales/
Proposed Bill and Current Status: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2657
Iowa Secretary Naig Signs Cooperative Interstate Shipment Agreement with USDA FSIS
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig finalized a Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today. This means state-inspected meat and poultry processors in Iowa are one step closer to being able to sell their products across state lines. Eligible processors can apply for admission to the CIS program now.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the important role that local community meat lockers play in the food supply chain,” said Secretary Naig. “I am excited for these meat processors to have the opportunity to grow their businesses, move more products, and access new markets.”
Central Grocers files a class action lawsuit
Central Grocers filed a class action lawsuit alleging the big four packers have violated the Sherman Act by conspiring to constrain beef supplies in the United States. This action has artificially inflated domestic beef prices the retailers/grocers pay.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/lawsuit-number-3/
Big 4 Meatpackers Subpoenaed
The U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly contacted the four big meatpackers, seeking information related to an investigation into possible anti-trust violations.
According to the Bloomberg story, an unnamed source reported that the DOJ sent “civil investigative demands,” which are essentially subpoenas, to the four companies, and is in communication with state attorneys general.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/asking-the-right-questions/
Expanding Markets for State-Inspected Meat Processors Act of 2020 Introduced
The Expanding Markets for State-Inspected Meat Processors Act of 2020, is legislation to allow meat products inspected by state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines.
Presently, there are 27 states with inspection programs certified by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), which meet or exceed federal inspection standards. However, products processed at these FSIS approved state MPI inspected facilities are not currently allowed to be sold across state lines.
Proposed Bill and Current Status: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/7162/text?r=34&s=1
Chicken Industry Execs Indicted
Pilgrim’s Pride CEO and three other chicken industry execs indicted for an alleged price-fixing conspiracy.
Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP) Act Introduced
The bill amends the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946 by inserting a new section: Sec. 298. Grants for Improvements to Meat and Poultry Facilities to Allow For Interstate Shipment.
The bill would establish a program to make facility upgrades and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to federal inspection and be able to sell their products across state lines.
Read more at TSLN.com: https://www.tsln.com/news/cattlemen-welcome-legislation-to-improve-meat-processing-capacity/
House Ag Committee Summary Document: https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/ramp-up_act_section_by_section.pdf?utm_campaign=427-520
Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act Introduced
The bipartisan legislation would amend retail exemptions under current law to allow meat processed in state-inspected establishments to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, providing beef producers and local processors alike with more options to market direct-to-consumers, while also maintaining federal food safety standards.
NCBA Response: NCBA Applauds Introduction Of DIRECT Act