While speaking at the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump promised that he will be asking the U.S. Department of Justice to take a closer look at the ongoing discrepancy in market prices, most notably cattle prices. Also in attendance were Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“Well, I’ll ask the Justice Department to look into it,” Trump said during questioning regarding the huge price disparity between producers and processors. “I will ask them to take a very serious look into it, because it shouldn’t be happening that way, and we want to protect our farmers. … Supply and demand should not allow that to happen, by normal supply and demand.”
The statement comes just days after 10 attorneys general sought an investigation by DOJ into the state of competition in the cattle industry and the dynamics that are depriving cattle ranchers and American consumers of a competitive cattle industry.
A total of 23 state cattle organizations sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr April 20 requesting a formal investigation to uncover and identify any evidence of fraudulent business practices within the beef packing industry. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture is still investigating the impact of an August 2019 fire at Tyson's Holcomb, Kan., beef plant on the cattle markets and have added the current crisis to that investigation, the state cattle organizations collectively believe DOJ engagement is critical.
Beginning in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, cattle producers have seen prices decline drastically, with cattle futures falling 29% between January and April, all while beef prices increased on market shelves.
“Beef is flying off the shelves, while our cattle producers can barely make ends meet. Something doesn’t add up,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (R., S.D.) said.
Last month, Johnson wrote a letter to Trump requesting that the investigation be expanded to multiple agencies for a more comprehensive approach. Last week, Johnson, along with 24 members of the U.S. House, asked USDA to release the findings of its investigation into cattle market volatility.
“I’m grateful that after calls from Midwest members, the President is ramping up this investigation for cattle country. COVID-19 has exposed the cracks in our supply chain,” Johnson said.