BILLINGS, Mont. – R-CALF, an advocacy organization representing ranchers, has asked US Attorney General William Barr to block National Beef Packing Co.’s proposed acquisition of Iowa Premium.

National Beef, a unit of Marfrig Global Foods, announced the transaction on March 11 and expects to close the deal — valued at $76.5 million — during the second quarter of 2019. If allowed to proceed, R-CALF said, the acquisition would “accelerate the decline of the fed cattle market.”

Iowa Premium processes about 1,100 head of Black Angus cattle per day and employs 800 people at its Tama, Iowa, plant. The company sells its product under the brands Iowa Premium Angus and Est. 8 Angus. The company reported annual revenues of approximately $650 million. National Beef operates two slaughtering facilities in Kansas and is responsible for handling about 13 percent of the cattle slaughtering capacity in the US each year. It also operates three processing plants located in Hummels Wharf, Pennsylvania, Moultrie, Georgia, and St. Joseph, Missouri.

“National Beef’s acquisition of Iowa Premium will substantially reduce competition for fed cattle regionally as well as nationally, thus harming independent US cattle producers,” R-CALF said in the letter to Barr. “The acquisition will also likely substantially reduce competition for boxed beef, which will harm American consumers.”

R-CALF also expressed concern about Marfrig’s majority ownership of National Beef. “Marfrig followed Brazilian-owned JBS to America to gain additional control over US marketing outlets upon which nearly three-quarters of a million US cattle producers rely to establish a competitive price for their cattle,” the letter stated. “Those marketing outlets are, of course, the US beef packing industry.”

In 2018, R-CALF opposed Marfrig’s acquisition of a 51 percent stake in National Beef from New York-based Leucadia National Corp. for $969 million. R-CALF believes Marfrig and JBS SA are attempting to gain control over the US beef packing industry.

“In 2007, Marfrig and JBS were each required by the antitrust division of the Brazilian Justice Department to pay upward of $7.6 million in fines for engaging in anticompetitive cattle procurement practices, including coordinating price agreements among themselves to lower cattle prices paid to cattle producers,” according to the letter. “Consequently, Marfrig and JBS are known cartels.”