Commissioner Quarles, Attorney General Cameron Author Joint Letter Asking Department of Justice to Investigate Alleged Price Fixing in the Cattle Industry
FRANKFORT, KY (May 12, 2020) – Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Attorney General Daniel Cameron sent a joint letter today to U.S. Attorney General William Barr asking for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the beef packing sector.
The letter notes that, despite steady consumer demand for beef, the prices paid to Kentucky’s cattle producers have declined, suggesting the presence of possible market manipulation and other anticompetitive practices. As a result, Kentuckian consumers are paying more for beef while hardworking Kentucky farmers are making less.
“As Kentucky and the nation move towards reopening the economy in a quick and responsible manner, consumers and farmers deserve to know if there is a scheme to threaten market competition in the beef industry,” said Commissioner Quarles. “Our beef cattle producers have seen thirty and forty percent price drops since the start of the pandemic, even while the price of beef products at the grocery store has increased. I would like to thank Attorney General Cameron for joining me in this effort to make sure the beef industry isn’t rigged against Kentucky’s 38,000 hardworking cattle producers.”
“We’re urging DOJ to use the resources at its disposal to fully investigate allegations of anticompetitive practices in the beef processing sector, and we stand ready to assist with such an investigation in any way possible,” said Attorney General Cameron. “Kentucky’s cattle producers and consumers already face incredible economic challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we must ensure that they are treated fairly in the marketplace and do not face additional hardship because of price fixing or other anticompetitive actions. I appreciate Commissioner Quarles partnering with us in this endeavor.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruptions at meat processing plants and created shortages nationwide. With only four beef processors controlling 80 percent of the American market, such disruptions further exacerbate pre-existing disparities between the price of live cattle and the wholesale price of beef.
“On behalf of Kentucky’s beef cattle producers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, let me be the first to express my gratitude for the leadership of Agriculture Commissioner Quarles and Attorney General Daniel Cameron,” said Dave Maples, Executive Director of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association. “Kentucky is the largest beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River, and both of these men understand the negative effects of any possible anticompetitive business practices on both consumers and our producers.”
In the letter, Commissioner Quarles and Attorney General Cameron ask DOJ to use the department’s investigatory resources to conduct an in-depth study of the current economic realities within the cattle industry to determine if anticompetitive practices are being used. Both Quarles and Cameron offer DOJ the resources of their respective offices to assist with such an investigation on behalf of Kentucky consumers.