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MEDIA ADVISORY: Northern Plains rancher to testify before U.S. Congress on impacts of beef industry corruption 

Consumers overpay for beef while underpaid ranchers are squeezed out of business

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 22, 2022

Grass Range rancher and Northern Plains member Gilles Stockton will testify before Congress on the impacts cattle market corruption has on family ranchers and rural communities.

Who: Northern Plains Resource Council, Gilles Stockton, U.S. House Agriculture Committee

What: Congressional hearing on meat packing industry, cattle market transparency, diminished prices for ranchers, and rising cost of food

  • Related issues: corporate monopolies; antitrust law enforcement; consumer rights; food safety; food security; family agriculture viability; rural economies; Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921; Country-of-Origin Labeling

When: Wednesday, April 27, 2022 8 AM MT/10 AM ET

Where: U.S. Congress, Washington, D.C., YouTube Livestream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TCOnoGHDJ0

Overview

The American beef market is dominated by only four multinational corporations – National Beef, JBS, Cargill, and Tyson. These four corporations control approximately 85% of the beef industry, monopolizing the market and squeezing both ends of the supply chain so that ranchers are paid unsustainable prices for their cattle and consumers are overpaying for meat at the grocery store.

Allegations that these meatpackers have abused their position in a highly concentrated market to fix prices has led to $400 million in fines and settlements in recent years.

As economic pressures mount in urban grocery stores and rural ranchlands alike, Washington D.C. has taken notice. The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture will examine issues of unfair competition in the beef industry in a hearing that will feature testimony from ranchers as well as the CEO’s of the “big four” meatpackers

Gilles Stockton, a Grass Range, MT rancher and spokesperson for the Northern Plains Resource Council, a family agriculture group, will speak to the committee about the impacts market concentration has had on agricultural producers.

“I am grateful that Chairman Scott and the Agriculture Committee are examining this issue and have invited me to share my perspective,” said Stockton. 

“Unlawful practices by the corporate meatpackers are threatening the viability of family ranching, which leads to a wider hollowing out of rural economies. At the same time, consumers are paying inflated prices for beef at the grocery store. This system is corrupted, and we must restore basic fairness and competition to the marketplace.”

Congress passed the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act over a century ago to address this very issue. At that time, a few corporations controlled 82 percent of the market. After reforms were put in place to restore competition, that number fell to 36 percent by 1980

Shortly thereafter –  beginning in the Reagan administration – antitrust law largely stopped being enforced, and corporate mergers in the agriculture industry expanded dramatically. The result is concentration in the meatpacking industry that surpasses the levels that led to the Packers and Stockyards Act. Since corporate consolidation resumed in the 1980s, 40 percent of family ranches no longer exist.

“The solutions are not terribly complicated; we addressed this in 1921,” continued Stockton. “We simply need to require that beef packers buy their cattle in a competitive, open market that they do not not own or control.  We also need to pass the American Beef Labeling Act to restore country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork.” 

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For more information on the issue of cattle market concentration, click here to view or download our fact sheet.