Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting that the Packers and Stockyards Division publicly release findings from its investigation into beef pricing margins following the fire at Tyson’s plant in Holcomb, Kansas. The USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division was instructed to launch an investigation in August 2019 and a report has yet to be released.
“I write today regarding concerns about the enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the ability to protect our country’s independent cattle producers from unfair practices. The national pandemic of COVID-19 has shed light on the many problems within the Packers and Stockyards Division and its inability to preserve our nation’s beef supply chain,” Grassley wrote.
“On August 28, 2019, you directed USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division to launch an investigation into beef pricing margins following the fire at Tyson’s plant in Holcomb, Kansas. Nearly a year later, farmers and producers still await any reports from this investigation.
“If a report is not issued on the Tyson’s Holcomb, Kansas, plant by August 9, 2020, a year since the fire at Tyson’s, I will be asking GAO to conduct an investigation into the reporting processes of the Packers and Stockyards Division to see if additional authority or resources are needed to properly conduct oversight of processing facilities,” Grassley concluded.
Grassley is a longtime advocate for additional transparency in the meatpacking industry. Twenty years ago, he held an oversight hearing on USDA’s ability to address competition concerns in the meat industry.
On March 13, 2020, Grassley sent a letter with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) regarding whether an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage has occurred in violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Later that month, Grassley called upon both USDA and the Department of Justice to investigate potential market manipulation and other illegal activity by large meatpacking companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA has recently initiated an investigation and the Department of Justice announced that it had issued civil investigative demands to the nation’s four largest meatpackers.
Full text of the letter can be found HERE.