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Rep. Johnson and SD ranchers want answers on meatpacking pricing

Hearings were held Wednesday with the four major meat packers, highlighting alleged unfair...
Hearings were held Wednesday with the four major meat packers, highlighting alleged unfair prices in the cattle market.(Nick Nelson)
Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 5:37 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Washington is paying more attention to the lack of competition in the meatpacking industry, here in the U.S.

Hearings were held Wednesday with the four major meat packers, highlighting alleged unfair prices in the cattle market.

South Dakota ranchers were already feeling the impact of the monopolized meat packing industry before the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensuing supply chain crisis.

Eric Jennings is one of those ranchers, and President of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.

He’s hoping members of congress, including Representative Dusty Johnson, can enact legislation to make the meatpacking industry more productive.

Four corporations, Cargill, Tyson, JBS, and National Beef currently control 85% of the cattle market.

Jennings says the big question is if there’s price fixing in the industry.

The U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into the matter a few years ago.

“We need to get the investigation through and find out what it is,” Jennings said. “Is it just strictly market fundamentals that are affecting these prices, or is something illegal or unethical going on?”

Johnson, frustrated by the lack of information from the DOJ, says silence is not good for local producers.

“If they haven’t found any evidence that the packers aren’t doing anything wrong, it seems to me that the packer’s interest would be well served by the release of that information,” Johnson said. “If the police investigated me and exonerated me, I would want them to shout that from the rooftops.”

In 2021, Johnson introduced two pieces of legislation, the Butcher Block Act in June, and the Cattle Contract Library Act in October, as potential solutions to price transparency for producers.

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