The U.S. Department of Agriculture will purchase roughly 1.8 million lb. of pork products worth $5 million from Brazilian firm JBS using funds appropriated by the Trump Administration to help American family farmers and ranchers weather the Administration’s trade war. The reports have drawn concern from farmer and consumer groups that say the trade assistance money should be used for American companies.
National Farmers Union (NFU) president Roger Johnson said NFU strongly urges USDA to reject bids by companies owned by JBS to receive money from the trade aid program. “This money should instead be directed to the American farm families struggling with depressed prices and lost markets because of the Administration’s reckless trade strategy,” Johnson said in a statement.
He added that the irony that this money is supposed to be supporting American producers but is actually going to the “behemoth Brazilian meatpacking firm JBS” is not lost on the American family farmer. “USDA should not be sending money — directly or indirectly — to Brazil, the country that has benefitted the most from the President’s trade wars. In fact, because of our strained relations with China, Brazilian farmers have received a $2 price premium on their soybeans compared to American farmers."
In November 2018, Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods rescinded its bid for bailout money after a backlash on Capitol Hill over the award. The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is now circulating a petition calling on USDA and Congress to the halt payments to JBS.
“It is a sad day when our own government will open its doors for global meatpacking corporations while keeping them closed during this government shutdown to America’s family farmers. While our elected officials are focused on border security, we are paying foreign countries to capture our food producing and processing infrastructure, extract our resources and control our food supply,” the petition said.
In a statement, OCM added that JBS’s illegal and abusive activity runs deep. In a decade-long scheme, the meatpacker bribed more than 1,800 Brazilian politicians, which JBS admitted helped it take over the U.S. beef market. Meanwhile, in 2017, JBS was caught exporting rotten meat worldwide. In 2018, 12 million lb. of JBS ground beef were recalled, and 246 people became ill in the U.S. due to salmonella poisoning.
“In 2018, USDA found JBS had ripped off U.S. cattle producers at three separate slaughter facilities by shorting them on payments for their cattle, and while the JBS abuses were extensive, USDA settled the claims for a mere $50,000 penalty. USDA is now paying back JBS 100-fold with its $5 million award,” OCM said.
JBS did not respond to requests for comment.