Report Issued in USDA Investigation into Beef Markets

Brian German Agri-Business, Dairy & Livestock

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new report detailing some of the agency’s findings in relation to the beef market. The USDA investigation stems from issues raised about the disparities between the prices that farmers are receiving and the cost of beef products in retail outlets. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue noted that while the report is a good example of the department’s determination in keeping markets fair, there will be continuous evaluation of the industry.

USDA Investigation

“We appreciate the USDA’s thorough examination of the beef markets. There’s little doubt that something is wrong when consumers are paying higher prices for meat and at the same time America’s farmers and ranchers are being paid less,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a press release. “We are reviewing the policy recommendations the USDA put forth in the report and look forward to working with them and Congress to ensure markets remain fair for everyone involved.”

The Boxed Beef & Fed Cattle Price Spread Investigation Report was prepared by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in coordination with the Office of the Chief Economist. While the USDA investigation did not identify any willful malfeasance, the report did note that two particular events have had a considerable effect on the overall industry. The fire that occurred at a Tyson Foods beef packing plant last year which resulted in the facility’s closure, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, has created substantial turmoil in the beef sector.

“In its analysis of the effects of the fire and the pandemic, USDA found no wrong-doing and confirms the disruption in the beef markets was due to devastating and unprecedented events,” Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said in a news release. “It is difficult to see how the USDA’s recommended legislative proposals would have changed the outcome of the fire or the pandemic.”

Because the USDA investigation is ongoing, the report notes that “AMS has limited ability to publicly report the full scope and status of the investigation.” The report does not examine any potential violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act but does offer recommendations to help strengthen the resiliency of the industry.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West