RICHMOND, Va. – On May 19, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Virginia US Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA-06) sent a joint letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the US Dept. of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit challenging George’s Inc.’s acquisition of Tyson Foods Inc.’s poultry processing facilities in Harrisonburg, according to

DOJ is challenging the sale based on a reduction in competition among poultry integrators in the Rockingham/Harrisonburg area, even though Tyson’s departure would have accomplished the same reduction. George’s March 18 purchase of the facility prevented it from possibly closing and saved approximately 500 jobs and 121 grower contracts with Shenandoah Valley farmers.

The four signatories urged Holder and DOJ to consider the impact of this lawsuit on the local workforce and to “seek a resolution that will ensure that this important facility in Harrisonburg can continue contributing jobs and revenue to the local economy.”

“As governor, I am asking Attorney General Holder to withdraw this suit immediately and to let George’s get about the business of maintaining the jobs of hundreds of hardworking Virginians,” McDonald said. “I look forward to George’s carrying out the proposed expansions to their newest facility in Virginia and I applaud their goal of extending growers’ contracts and increasing profitability in coming years.”

The largest subsector of Virginia’s agricultural economy is the poultry industry, consisting primarily of poultry integrators and farmers who make their livelihoods as contract growers for poultry processors such as Tyson Foods, George’s, the Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative and others in the Valley, Southside and on the Eastern Shore. Farm sales of Virginia chickens and turkeys totaled more than $760 million in 2010.