BILLINGS — Record profits by U.S. meat packers has both cattle producers and government officials calling for an investigation by the Department of Justice regarding the disparity in the cattle markets.
In a recent joint letter with other governors from South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte urged the Department of Justice to continue their investigation into serious allegations of anticompetitive behavior in the meatpacking industry.
“Decades of consolidation in meatpacking has significantly limited the options that producers have to market their cattle and has created a situation where one segment of the beef industry has near total control over the entire market,” said Gianforte. “We urge the Department of Justice to continue to investigate this matter with the urgency it calls for. The loss of the independent cattle producer would devastate not only ranching families and the rural communities they support, but the very health and spirit of our nation. Producers and consumers deserve fairness and transparency now more than ever.”
In a recent interview with the Montana Ag Network, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said market transparency is top priority of the USDA.
“President Biden understands the importance and significance and the challenges that farmers and ranchers face,” said Vilsack. “I think he's going to continue to work through the Department of Agriculture to find new, more and better market opportunities. And that's part of our goal. One of the issues that we didn't talk about today is the need for open and transparent markets."
"I know those in the cattle industry are very concerned about this. We are as well. And I think over the course of the next several months, you're going to see the Department of Agriculture being aggressive in the space, looking for ways in which we can create more openness, more transparency and maybe even more competition for that rancher product," Vilsack added. So, hopefully, that will make a difference in the long run.”
The growing disparity between wholesale beef prices and live cattle prices also has the attention of the Senate and House Agriculture Committee members who also promise a hearing on the issue.
Gov. Gianforte was joined in signing the letter by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.