Georgia dock report suspended until further notice

Submission of price data lags after state agency implements new requirements.

For the first time in at least 16 years, the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) has suspended the Georgia dock price index report amid price-fixing concerns, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is reporting. Last week, GDA implemented new requirements that companies must submit a signed affidavit and attestation when reporting prices. The attestation is required for each individual employee submitting information to Georgia "Poultry Market News," and the affidavit is required of each company.

Julie McPeake, a GDA spokeswoman, told WSJ not enough companies submitted the documents this week, prompting the agency to suspend the report.

The Georgia dock is calculated by GDA and is based on reports from eight anonymous chicken companies within the state. Public records show that Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson control about half of the 18 contributing plants. These processors are asked about the amount of chicken parts they have sold and at what price, but the numbers do not receive independent verification. The price is then often used to determine contracts between chicken producers and supermarkets. As such, the prices can result in higher or lower prices for consumers.

The agency told WSJ that it will resume publishing the report once at least half of the companies that routinely report begin submitting data again.

“We did not feel that the number was sufficient to meet minimum statistical reporting standards. We understand that companies may need more time to review the requirements,” McPeake told WSJ, noting that the state may resume publishing the report in the future.

McPeake also said GDA is currently formulating a new model that would include independent verification of prices.

Some of the larger contributing companies have downplayed the significance of the report to the marketplace, but many companies use the index as one of several resources for negotiating.

Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride confirmed to WSJ that they have continued to submit data to the state agency, but a Sanderson Farms executive said his company is still reviewing the legal implications of the new requirements.

The Georgia dock was $1.0975/lb. on Nov. 28, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the comparable Northeast Region whole broiler/fryer weighted average price at 83.47 cents/lb. on Nov. 25.

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