Rounds unveils bipartisan resolution calling for investigation into beef packing industry

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would be required to report to Congress on the extent of anticompetitive practices and violations of antitrust law in America’s beef packing industry under a bipartisan resolution introduced by U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD).

“For the past two years, I have been calling on the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of price-fixing, collusion and other unfair practices in the beef packing industry,” Sen. Rounds said. “Unfortunately, the Department of Justice has seemingly not made these concerns a priority and both consumers and cattle producers in South Dakota continue to suffer as a result. It’s critical to determine if violations are occurring, or if Congress needs to take further action to strengthen the current antitrust laws that are on the books.”

Sen. Rounds on May 19 signed on as the lead original cosponsor of Senate Joint Resolution (S.J.Res.) 47, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to direct the FTC to investigate and report on beef packing industry anticompetitive practices and violations of antitrust law, including price-fixing, anticompetitive acquisitions, dominance of supply chains, and monopolization, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers. 

“For years, the price paid to cattle producers for their high-quality American products has not followed the price of beef at the grocery store. Meanwhile, the four largest beef packers, who control 85 percent of the beef processing capacity, have enjoyed record profits,” said Sen. Rounds. “This has resulted in an average of nearly 17,000 cattle ranchers going out of business each year since 1980.”

The senator said S.J.Res. 47 addresses these issues and, if enacted, would “trigger an existing statute that requires the FTC to investigate and report to Congress whether the big packers are engaging in anticompetitive practices, or even breaking antitrust laws, to maintain their stranglehold on the beef packing industry.”

The resolution also would direct the FTC to report to Congress within one year on the monetary and other harms of anticompetitive practices and violations of antitrust law in the beef packing industry on consumers, ranchers, farmers, plant workers, and small businesses, and to make recommendations for legislation or other remedial actions, the bill summary says.

The legislation has garnered support from the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, R-CALF USA, the South Dakota Farmers Union, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, the Groundwork Collaborative, and Farm Action Fund.