Senators want meatpacking industry investigated for anti-trust violations

The Brillion News

Posted on April 29, 2020 @ 10:55 a.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to open an antitrust investigation into the meatpacking industry.

The two lawmakers said the industry is currently dominated by just a handful of large, multinational firms that have concentrated meat processing into fewer and fewer facilities, leaving America’s food supply chain vulnerable to disruptions.

In the bipartisan letter, Baldwin and Hawley said the closing of three pork plants because of COVID-19 has resulted “in the shutdown of a staggering 15 percent of America’s pork production” at a time when stable supply chains have become more critical than ever. “As a result, farmers cannot process their livestock—which are costly to maintain—and consumers risk seeing shortages at grocery stores, exacerbating the food insecurity that all too many Americans are currently experiencing,” the joint letter said. “These harms might have been mitigated if the meatpacking industry was less concentrated. The current COVID-19 crisis has exposed the vulnerabilities of American supply chains and the importance of ensuring that, when disaster strikes, America’s food supplies are not in the hands of a few, mostly foreign-based firms.” The letter continues: “The FTC has the power to shed light on these growing competition and security problems in our food supply. The Commission should ask probing questions about major meatpacking firms’ conduct, pricing, and contracting, as well as how their commitments to overseas interests impact the U.S. market and national security. Moreover, because a competitive food industry is so critical to the public interest, you should make the findings of any investigation public.”

Fearing a panic on meat, President Donald Trump on Tuesday, April 28, ordered meatpackers to stay open and maintain production. Some hog farmers had threatened to kill and bury hogs because they couldn't find a packing plant to take them, and couldn't afford to continue feeding them.

On Wednesday morning, April 29, Iowa Strate University Extension held a web-seminar on euthanasia of hogs and disposal of their bodies. The program was sponsored by Iowa Pork Producers Association. Topics included were environmentally sound disposal options, how compost works, above-ground burial, carbon feedstocks (types and amounts), windrow construction (space requirements, design and layout), and windrow management and troubleshooting. Presenters were extension educator Mark Hutchinson with the University of Maine; Gary Flory, agricultural program manager with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality; and Craig Williams, dairy team educator with Penn State Extension.

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