Okla. lawmakers lead colleagues in requesting results of USDA beef pricing investigation

U.S. Reps. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Tom Cole (R-OK) are among two dozen congressional members who requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) quickly provide them with its findings into an investigation around the nation’s beef pricing market.

“The agency’s report will provide much-needed guidance and insight into what steps may need to be taken in order to ensure that the markets are functioning properly so we can work to put the trust of cattlemen and women across the country back into the markets,” said Rep. Lucas.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue last month extended the department’s Packers and Stockyard Division investigation that started in August 2019 to determine the causes of divergence between live beef and box prices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The oversight role that USDA and the U.S. Department of Justice have over these markets is a key aspect of cultivating producer confidence in our markets,” said Rep. Lucas, who led his colleagues in writing a May 1 letter sent to Secretary Perdue seeking the results of the investigation. “Right now, that confidence is waning in the countryside and I hope that this letter prompts the agency to release their findings as soon as possible.”

In the lawmakers’ letter, members noted that since the first few weeks of the pandemic, U.S. cattlemen have seen prices drastically decline, with cattle futures falling 29 percent between January and April while beef prices increased.

“While we do recognize the complexity of the beef markets generally, the devastating effect this has had on many of our constituents in the last few weeks is clear. This is of great concern to us for a variety of reasons but chief among them being the doubt it casts on our markets as a whole,” wrote Rep. Lucas, Rep. Cole, and their 22 colleagues, who also included U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY).

The members also noted that volatility during the current pandemic has made market participation difficult to manage and capital intensive.

“As policymakers, we rely on these findings to provide clarity and information to make the most informed policy decisions going forward,” the congressmen wrote.