US Lawmakers Propose FTC Resolution To Deal With Beef Pricing Issues

Two senators recently proposed a bipartisan investigation for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine possible anti-competitive practices and antitrust law violations by the beef industry. 

If the resolution goes through, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would want a report from the FTC within a year. The top-four beef packers increased their market share from 32% to 85% in the past three decades.

 “Only four billionaire corporations control 85% of the market for beef — and these giant corporations have been using their market power to raise prices for consumers and have reduced pay for ranchers, farmers, and plant workers, all while padding their bottom lines. It’s time for Congress to get back in the game and use every tool to promote competition in our markets so we can lower costs for families, and I’m glad to be leading this bipartisan effort with Senator Rounds,” said Senator Warren.

“For the past two years, I have been calling on the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of price-fixing, collusion and other unfair practices in the beef packing industry,” said Senator Rounds. “Unfortunately, the Department of Justice has seemingly not made these concerns a priority and both consumers and cattle producers in South Dakota continue to suffer as a result. For years, the price paid to cattle producers for their high-quality American products has not followed the price of beef at the grocery store. Meanwhile, the four largest beef packers, who control over 80 percent of the beef processing capacity, have enjoyed record profits. This has resulted in nearly 17,000 cattle ranchers going out of business each year since 1980. Senator Warren and I have introduced a bipartisan resolution to address these issues. If passed, it will trigger an existing statute that requires the FTC to investigate and report to Congress whether the big packers are engaging in anti-competitive practices, or even breaking antitrust laws, to maintain their stranglehold on the beef packing industry. It’s critical to determine if violations are occurring, or if Congress needs to take further action to strengthen the current antitrust laws that are on the books.”

In late April, four of the major meat companies in the United States, Cargill, JBS USA, Tyson Foods and National Beef Packing, testified in front of the House Agriculture Committee regarding the state of beef and cattle markets.

Tyson Foods president Donnie King explained in his released testimony the stance of his company regarding the current market factors.

“Tyson does not set the prices for either the cattle we buy or the beef our customers purchase,” he stated. “These prices are set by straightforward market forces, namely available supply and demand.”