U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has directed USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division to launch an “investigation into recent beef pricing margins to determine if there is any evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions of competition or other unfair practices.”
Perdue’s request comes as part of USDA’s “continued efforts to monitor the impact of the fire at the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kan.
“If any unfair practices are detected, we will take quick enforcement action. USDA remains in close communication with plant management and other stakeholders to understand the fire’s impact to industry,” the statement from Perdue said.
Perdue’s actions were supported by cattlemen’s groups. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston said Perdue’s announcement “demonstrates the government’s understanding of the extreme strain placed on the cattle industry by the plant fire in Holcomb, Kansas.”
Houston encouraged USDA to “look at all aspects of the beef supply chain and to utilize internal and external expertise in this investigation. We believe it adds transparency that will help build confidence in the markets among cattlemen and women."
The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association also applauded the decision. In a statement, ICA said over the past two weeks, cattle producers have expressed concern that changes in the live cattle and boxed beef markets since the fire are unjustified. ICA has been working on behalf of members across the state to provide market certainty via monitoring and fully supports an investigation.
“We recognize that there are market fundamentals at play,” says David Trowbridge, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association President, “But given the extreme effect the current market conditions are having on Iowa’s cattle industry, we believe it is in our members’ best interests to eliminate any doubts regarding the market reaction.”