Reps. Guest, Soto seek update on DOJ investigation into cattle market

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U.S. Reps. Michael Guest (R-MS) and Darren Soto (D-FL) are seeking updates from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on its investigations into anticompetitive conduct within the beef industry.

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Guest and Soto said cattle producers across the country have experienced volatile livestock markets driven by supply chain disruptions and labor challenges. These challenges have been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and a consolidated beef market. In May of 2020, the Department of Justice launched investigations into the four largest meatpackers in the United States to examine if anticompetitive practices led to price disparities between live cattle prices and wholesale beef.

The lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for an update on that investigation.

“We understand that a thorough investigation can take many months, but it concerns us that farmers, ranchers, and the packers themselves have all been left with little direction since the CIDs were issued,” the lawmakers wrote to Garland. “As you may know, the price for live cattle in the United States has decreased in the last several years, forcing many small operators to make difficult decisions as they strive to stay in business and keep their farms operational. Yet, at the same time, the price of boxed beef has increased significantly, raising consumer prices and widening the gap between live cattle prices, which is a concern for ranchers and consumers alike. This disparity has only been accelerated by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the labor shortages in processing facilities due to enhanced government benefits, all of which has resulted in continued food supply chain disruption.”

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