BILLINGS, Mont. – R-CALF USA is asking the federal government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the delisting of a JBS S.A.-owned beef packing plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania.
In a complaint filed with the US Senate Judiciary Committee, R-CALF USA and its Ohio affiliate, Buckeye Quality Beef Association, alleged that Cargill, which operates a beef plant in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, had no competition in the Northeast market for fed cattle. Cattle prices were falling in Pennsylvania, the groups said, and rising in the rest of the United States.
“JBS’ withdrawal from the market caused immediate market failure in the region, with USDA reporting that cow prices fell $5 to $10 per cwt during the week ending Nov. 3, 2017,” according to the complaint. “One private news service reported that cattle prices were depressed in Pennsylvania even while cattle prices were increasing in the rest of the United States.”
The complaint states that Cargill continued buying cattle from area producers at prices the company “…knew or should have known were artificially manipulated…” due to lack of market competition, the groups said in their complaint.
The JBS plant was delisted because of an infestation of rats, and was out of the market for about three weeks, the groups said. The groups said the incident should be investigated to determine if JBS and Cargill violated antitrust laws. Cargill, in a statement, said, “We conduct our business in compliance with all competition laws and believe it is important to do so for fair and honest competition in the marketplace.”
R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said, “Secretary Perdue unilaterally disarmed his agency when he threw out the so-called GIPSA rules that would have afforded him the tools to enforce anticompetitive conduct in the marketplace. As it stands today, the US Senate Judiciary Committee may well be the last governmental body that can help us restore and preserve a competitive marketplace for US farmers and ranchers.”