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USDA to Initiate Oversight into Beef Price Disparities
USAgNet - 04/09/2020

North Dakota U.S. Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Packers and Stockyards Division will extend its oversight to investigate price disparities between box and live beef during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hoeven has raised the issue in conversations with Perdue and joined with a bipartisan groups of senators, led by Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), in calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate continued allegations of price fixing within the cattle industry. Hoeven also spoke with Greg Ibach, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, stressing the need for strong oversight to prevent anti-competitive behavior.

"We welcome the expanded oversight by USDA to ensure that any anti-competitive behavior within the cattle industry is addressed and prevented," Hoeven said. "We've been working closely with North Dakota's livestock producer groups and the administration to advance investigations into the allegations of market manipulation. Our ranchers produce the highest quality beef in the world, and they deserve a fair price for their product."

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, sent a letter calling for this exact action by USDA.

"After hearing from so many Nebraskans about potential unfair practices in the beef packing industry, I knew something needed to be done. I thank USDA for taking this action I requested on behalf of Nebraska's cattle producers and feeders. Expanding the scope of this investigation to cover COVID market disruption is the first step towards ensuring fairness throughout the beef supply chain," said Fischer.

COVID is having a major impact on cattle operations. Americans are purchasing more beef products at grocery stores and that is resulting in another round of windfall profits for meatpackers. However, cattle producers are taking price losses that threaten the viability of their businesses. Senator Fischer is taking a leading role in Congress to mitigate these issues.

In addition to the above efforts, Hoeven has been working to support cattle producers impacted by low commodity prices. Accordingly, the senator secured $9.5 billion in emergency appropriations for USDA and $14 billion in additional Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) borrowing authority, the primary funding source for the Livestock Forage Program and many other farm programs, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to address the challenges of COVID-19 on agriculture, including livestock producers.

Hoeven is working with USDA to provide immediate and fair assistance and has spoken with Perdue on multiple occasions in recent weeks, emphasizing the importance of supporting livestock producers. The senator has also recently spoken with Under Secretary Ibach and Stephen Censky, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, to stress this issue and receive an update on the administration's progress.

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