WASHINGTON – A group of federal lawmakers requested, in writing, an investigation into JBS USA’s re-acquisition of assets and facilities from lamb processor Mountain States Rosen (MSR) which purchased the Greeley, Colo.-based lamb plant from JBS in 2015.
In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, Department of Justice Antitrust Division, lawmakers from both chambers of Congress expressed concerns about JBS USA’s plan to convert the lamb processing operation to a value-added beef operation. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) wrote the letter and was joined by five other senators and six members of the US House of Representatives.
In their letter to Delrahim, lawmakers said the transaction “...may irreversibly harm competition in the domestic lamb market.”
“In addition to eliminating hundreds of jobs, MSR’s Greeley facility is one of the largest lamb processing facilities in the region, and serves sheep ranchers from 15 states, including Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and California,” the letter said. “This facility competes head-to-head with JBS, which imports all of its lamb products.
“Through this acquisition, JBS will eliminate a major domestic competitor in the region and could replace significant quantities of the American-raised lamb with imported products.”
JBS responded to MEAT+POULTRY’s request for comment and it will be updated this afternoon in the article.
MSR filed for bankruptcy in April and liquidated its assets, including the lamb processing facility in Greeley. JBS USA, a unit of São Paulo, Brazil-based JBS S.A., successfully bid on the facility and certain assets during an auction held in July. Mountain States Lamb Cooperative is a producer-owned marketing cooperative based in Douglas, Wyo., with members in 15 states. Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue with his concerns about JBS USA’s plan to end lamb processing at the Greeley facility.
“MSR is likely the second-largest lamb facility in the nation, represents one-fifth of America's lamb market and is a major outlet for Wyoming lamb,” Gordon said. “This transaction marks the end of on-site lamb processing and represents further consolidation of the packing industry and increased foreign influence on American markets — a topic which can be taken up separately and has previously been brought to the attention of Attorney General [William] Barr.”
The Lincoln, Neb.-based Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) also wrote to Delrahim calling for an investigation. OCM cited ongoing investigations into four of the largest meat packing companies in the United States, including JBS, and the US Department of Agriculture’s investigation of potential violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
OCM said the investigations and past criminal proceedings against brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista — who, in May, were cleared by a federal court in Brazil to return to managing positions at J&F Investimentos, the parent company of meatpacker JBS S.A.— constituted grounds “...to stop the purchase of MSR by JBS, to begin an investigation, and to revoke JBS’s grant of inspection in the United States.”