Cameron, Quarles want probe of price-fixing cattle prices

Published 9:23 pm Sunday, May 17, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Two of Kentucky’s Constitutional officers are banding together in asking for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the beef packing sector.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, which states 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, Kentucky consumers are paying more for beef while hardworking Kentucky farmers are making less.

Quarles says as Kentucky and the nation move towards reopening the economy, “consumers and farmers deserve to know if there is a scheme to threaten market competition in the beef industry.  Our beef cattle producers have seen 30 and 40 percent price drops since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, even while the price of beef products at the grocery store has increased.”

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For his part, Cameron says the two men stand ready to help such an investigation in any way possible.

“We’re urging DOJ to use the resources at its disposal to fully investigate allegations of anticompetitive practices in the beef processing sector.  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.”

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.

“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.”