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Congressional Opponents of Meat Industry Consolidation Intensify their Efforts

09/18/2023

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MI) has introduced the Strengthening Antitrust Enforcement for Meat Packing Act.  This in response to the announcement by Tyson Foods that plants in Dexter and Noel, Missouri will be closed along with plants in north Little Rock, AR and Corydon, IN.  The Missouri closures will affect 2,000 of Senator Hawley’s constituents, although many, being Hispanic, are probably not voters.  The proposed legislation would amend the Packers and Stockyards Act to allow antitrust action that results in market concentration.  The second objective of that the Act would be to restrict the ability of existing packers and poultry producers from acquiring competitors.

 

In 2000, Senator Hawley, who is facing reelection in 2024, urged the Federal Trade Commission to “investigate the growing concentration in the meat packing and processing industry and any anticompetitive behavior resulting from this concentration”.

 

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) is concerned over concentration in the red meat industry, pointing to the disruption caused by a transitory cyber-attack impacting JBS.

 

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) questioned the acquisition of Sanderson Farms by a consortium of Cargill, Inc. and Continental Grain with the subsequent merger of Sanderson farms with Wayne Farms.  Since the transaction, there has been no evidence of “an impact on consumer choice and price of poultry products”.  The concerns of Senator Grassley that “continued mergers and acquisitions in an already concentrated poultry industry” have not deleteriously affected prices or availability.

 

As we move into election mode, politicians in the Senate and all those in the House will become more voluble over the perceived but unproven allegations of the evils of consolidation that effectively are reflected in operational efficiency and competitive prices for consumers.