Senators Float 1920s Law To Probe Meatpackers

Two senators have floated the idea that the FTC could launch a probe into the meatpacking industry under an obscure authority last invoked in the 1920s, according to Bloomberg.

Senators Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Mike Rounds of South Dakota, introduced a joint resolution that would, if enacted, order the FTC to look into potential price-fixing, monopolization or other antitrust violations in the beef industry. 

The resolution comes as consumer prices have been rising at the fastest rate in decades and congressional Democrats are seeking ways to reduce price increases, or at least avoid being blamed for them, before the November elections.  Meat prices were up 13.8% in April year-on-year, according to the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index.

Related: US Rep. Hawley Pushes Bills Targeting Meatpacking Industry

Senator Warren introduced legislation last week that would give the FTC and state attorneys general more power to investigate companies that charge excessive prices.

The White House has blamed meatpackers for inflation at the supermarket, alleging that the largest companies are engaged in “pandemic profiteering.”

Four large companies – Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., JBS SA and National Beef Packing Co. – control 85% of U.S. beef processing capacity, according to data released by the White House. The companies have denied abusing their market position, saying that rising prices are the result of the coronavirus pandemic and supply-chain shortages.

Meatpáckers and other food industry sectors have been under tight scrutiny long before the current post-pandemic inflation began, with previous accusations of collusion and price-gouging in 2020 and 2021, where antitrust authorities have met with varying levels of success.

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