|Stockgrowers Respond to Senate Judiciary Committee’s Investigation of Cattle Price Collapse|
| Statement from Stockgrowers President Bill Kluck, Mud Butte, SD:
“The members of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association are really impressed and want to say thanks to the Senators who have agreed to move this investigation forward. The price collapse that we saw in the fall of 2015 was a serious downturn in our industry and strained the finances of our family ranches. If you figure that the average ranch had $500 per head less income in 2015, that’s a lot of money that isn’t circulating in our rural economy right now.
We appreciate that the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee took this seriously and is conducting this investigation to make sure our markets aren’t being influenced unfairly.”
Statement from SD Stockgrowers Marketing Committee Chair, Vaughn Meyer, Reva, SD:
“This investigation is great news, and we extend our thanks to Senators Grassley, Leahy, Lee and Klobuchar for their ongoing commitment to keeping our markets fair. The best way to keep our independent family ranches going is to keep our markets strong and competitive so that we get fair prices for the high quality cattle we’re raising.
The types of market swings that we’ve seen over the last year make it hard for our family ranch businesses to plan for the future and make us question just what is causing the drops. This investigation and full enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act are critical to making sure we don’t have anti-competitive forces trying to break the market.”
Press Release from R-CALF USA
Senate Judiciary Committee Approves R-CALF USA’s
Request to Investigate Cattle Price Collapse
In response to R-CALF USA’s January request, the Senate Judiciary Committee last week requested the Comptroller General of the United States to use his agency, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to initiate an investigation into the 2015 cattle price collapse.
In a letter signed by the chairman and ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), respectively, along with the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), respectively, the GAO is asked to investigate the cause of the sudden 15.1 percent drop in fed cattle prices that occurred during the latter half of 2015.
“We are pleased the Judiciary Committee agrees that the evidence we provided regarding the dysfunctionality of our fed cattle market warrants a careful investigation into the current structure of our industry and our industry’s susceptibility to anticompetitive practices,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
The Judiciary Committee’s letter specifically requested the GAO to conduct “a review of the structure of the market and of any possible anticompetitive conduct.”
According to the agency’s Website, the GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency often called the ‘government watchdog’ because it investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. The Comptroller General of the United States, who heads the GAO, is appointed to a 15-year term by the President. Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010.
“This is our last best chance to stop the chickenization of our cattle industry,” said Bullard, referring to the vertically integrated structure of the U.S. chicken industry that is under the complete control of large, corporate meatpackers.
“We don’t want our cattle industry to follow the chicken industry’s path and the only way to reverse our present trajectory towards it is to defend and protect competition in our cattle markets,” he added.
In 2010 the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Justice held joint hearings across the country during which both agencies indicated they would begin protecting competition in livestock markets by enforcing antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act, which prohibits anticompetitive conduct. However, no such actions have been initiated by either agency.