Meatpacker JBS has agreed to pay $52.5 million to settle ongoing litigation over allegations of beef price fixing. The lawsuit, that was originally filed in June of 2020, alleged that packers conspired to limit beef supplies in order to inflate prices.
The settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge in Minnesota, also lists Cargill, National Beef and Tyson Foods as defendants. Reuters reported that the proposed settlement is between JBS and so-called direct purchasers. It is the first settlement in the U.S. of litigation over beef price-fixing.
While similar in nature, this case is separate from the one filed by R-CALF USA, that claimed packers collectively reduced their slaughter volumes and purchases of cattle to depress cattle prices and inflate their own margins.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) called the announcement of the settlement deeply disturbing. NCBA joined many other livestock and agriculture organizations in requesting a government investigation of beef markets in 2019. Now NCBA says, “there are settlements occurring without Department of Justice having released findings or even providing cattle producers with an update on progress.”
In August 2019, following a fire at the Tyson plant in Holcomb, KS, NCBA sent a letter to USDA requesting an examination of price discrepancies in fed cattle markets. Again in 2020, NCBA took its plea directly to the White House, which then directed DOJ to investigate possible wrongdoing in the cattle markets. NCBA has also worked directly with members of Congress to press DOJ for an update and information about its investigation.
“America’s cattle producers expect and deserve full transparency on any, and all, information related to the ongoing market investigations. NCBA encourages the government to finalize its investigation so we can fully understand any damage that may have been caused,” said Colin Woodall, NCBA CEO. “It is clear from this settlement that cattle producers still don’t have all the information they have demanded and is deserved. The DOJ has an obligation to finish their investigation. Cattle producers do not have years to wait for the government to determine whether there has been wrongdoing, we demand answers now.”