LINCOLN – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released the following statement on Monday after taking actions toward solutions for cattle producers affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. These actions include calls for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Senate Judiciary Committee to look into potential anticompetitive behavior in the beef packing industry.
“I’ve heard concerns from Nebraskans across the state about the impact COVID-19 is having on their cattle operations and on the industry as a whole. Americans are purchasing more beef products at grocery stores, which is resulting in another round of windfall profits for meatpackers. Meanwhile, producers are taking price losses that threaten the viability of their businesses. Something must be done now. That’s why I am taking these actions today to investigate allegations of price gouging,” said Senator Fischer.
Today Senator Fischer sent two letters urging investigation into potential price gouging in the beef industry. Specific information on each of these letters is below.
Letter to Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee: Senator Fischer wrote to Chairman Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights. She called for a public hearing to examine claims of price manipulation, collusion, restriction of competition, price gouging, or other unfair practices within the current structure of the beef meatpacking industry.
Letter to USDA: Senator Fischer also wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting that the USDA expand its investigation of beef pricing margins that was launched following the Holcomb, Kansas, beef processing facility fire to include recent market impacts as a result of COVID-19. The investigation would determine if there is any evidence of unfair practices and ensure the beef meatpacking industry is compliant with the Packers and Stockyards Act during this national emergency.
As the COVID-19 epidemic continues, Senator Fischer is actively seeking additional ways that Congress can mitigate these issues in the future such as improving price discovery mechanisms and increasing cash market activity.