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Anti-competitive tactics in the meat packing industry hurt Montana ranchers

by STEVE DAINES
| March 8, 2022 7:00 AM

In Montana, cattle outnumber people by nearly three to one, so it’s no wonder that Montana beef plays such a large role in our rich legacy of agriculture and our economy.

Montana ranchers take pride in producing the best cattle and highest-quality beef in the world. The last thing they should have to worry about is getting a fair price for their product.

I’m hearing concerns from hardworking Montana cattle producers who are struggling to compete with the four biggest packers who currently dominate the market. These large packers face serious allegations of creating a fiercely anti-competitive environment through unfair practices like price fixing and market manipulation. This is a direct threat to the livelihoods of Montana ranchers who are being undercut and forced to sell cattle at lower prices. Meanwhile, the big packers are continuing to raise prices Montanans pay at the grocery store.

This is unacceptable. For years, I have been pushing for a full investigation into these anti-competitive actions so that we can put a stop to this once and for all and ensure our ranchers are receiving a fair price. Our work isn’t over.

In November, I helped introduce a bipartisan bill to improve fairness within the cattle market for Montana ranchers. The bipartisan Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act will help increase price transparency in cattle markets and crack down on the four major meat packers that are currently dominating the market. It would help ensure that the largest meat packers aren’t unfairly shutting out Montana ranchers by hiking prices and using their power to manipulate the market.

I’m also working to strengthen the labeling of beef products because Montana ranchers deserve to be rewarded for producing the best and freshest beef in the country, and Montana families deserve to know the true quality of what they are buying.

Current USDA rules allow foreign beef born and raised in other countries, but processed and packaged in the United States, to receive the “Product of USA” label. This is a disadvantage to Montana ranchers and misleading to Montana families. To put a stop to this, I’m working with my colleagues to pass the USA Beef Act to ensure only beef that comes from cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. can use the “Product of USA” label.

I have long worked to address unfair practices like these that are hurting Montana ranchers. Recently, the Biden administration announced steps to increase transparency in cattle markets and released an action plan to address unfair practices. While this is a welcome step forward from the administration, we must continue to fight to ensure Montana ranchers are treated fairly in the marketplace and that packers are held accountable.

Moreover, if the Biden administration is serious about helping Montana cattle producers, they need to abandon their multitrillion-dollar reckless tax and spending spree agenda that would raise taxes on hardworking Montana ranchers and hurt Montana’s multi-generational agricultural operations.

Biden and the Democrats should stop trying to impose their reckless tax and spend agenda on Montana ranchers. Instead, they should join me in my efforts to conduct a thorough investigation into the packers and allegations of price fixing and market manipulation. They should work with me to pass my bills that will strengthen labeling laws, increase transparency in the cattle market and ensure Montana ranchers are receiving fair prices for their beef.

Montana agriculture is more than just a major economic driver in our great state, it’s part of our way of life. We need to be doing all that we can to support our ranchers, not standing in the way.