WASHINGTON — Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD) recently sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to continue its investigation of the nation’s four biggest meatpackers.

The request from Thune and Johnson also asked the DOJ to provide congressional updates on a beef industry investigation. In May 2020, DOJ’s Antitrust Division sent civil investigative demands (CIDs) to the nation’s four biggest meatpackers.

“Cattle producers, especially small feeders, are again experiencing difficult conditions that are threatening their ability to stay in business,” Thune and Johnson wrote in the letter. “With a tight supply chain, any changes in processing capacity can have a dramatic impact on cattle prices, preventing producers from capturing margin from boxed beef rallies. It is critically important that producers have fair and transparent markets for the commodities they produce. We urge the DOJ Antitrust Division to continue vigilance and where possible, provide updates of findings.”

Other lawmakers who signed the letter include: Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Representatives Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Liz Cheney, (R-Wyo.), Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa), Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.).  

“The farmers and ranchers NCBA represent are contending with high market volatility, drought, and extreme input costs, and they can't capture the value they deserve for the high-quality product they supply,” said Ethan Lane, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “We have a high supply of cattle at one end of this equation and a high demand for US beef at the other, but the middle is being absolutely choked by the lack of processing capacity.”

Lane later said it was in the best interest of both producers and consumers for DOJ to get to the bottom of the current market dynamics and assess why it seemingly always results in producers getting the short end of the deal.