Ag Department Looking into Beef “Price-Fixing” Complaints

As the USDA’s probe into price-fixing allegations in the beef industry continues, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue would like some extra tools to deal with potential price manipulation across the industry. Perdue spoke during a Senate Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee hearing last week. He told committee members that he’s concerned about the wide range in beef prices livestock producers get when compared to meatpackers. Responding to Senator John Tester, Perdue says, “The deltas we’re seeing between the prices you describe are historically high.” Tester had said beef producers are getting gouged by lower prices, while consumers aren’t seeing a lot of benefits. The Montana Democrat said at the hearing that the pie isn’t being cut fairly at all. “The feeders and the livestock producers are taking 15-20 percent cuts on their prices,” Tester said, “while the packers are seeing just a three percent drop.” Consolidation in agriculture is getting a lot more attention from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including many of the current and former Democratic candidates for president. USDA has also taken criticism in recent months for siding with large agribusinesses over smaller farmers.