Last week, several Midwestern feedlot owners along with the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that dominant meatpackers conspired to depress cattle prices starting in 2015. The case argues that JBS, Tyson, Cargill, and National Beef strategically cut back on open market cattle bids, closed plants, and imported costly foreign cattle in order to force farmers to accept lower prices and manipulate spot market cattle values.(No paywall)
Mindy Brashears, a professor of food safety and food microbiology at Texas Tech, is President Trump's choice for agriculture undersecretary, announced the White House. "Food safety is at the core of USDA's mission because it directly affects the health and well-being of millions of Americans every day," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in describing Brashears as an excellent choice.
In December 2006, Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out the largest workplace raid in history. They arrested over 1,300 workers in six states, including 300 from Cactus, Texas, a small town with just over 3,000 residents. The Cactus workers were picked up from a meatpacking plant, then owned by Swift & Co. before it was acquired by JBS in 2007.
In order to modernize its work at slaughter plants, the USDA proposed a new inspection program that allows "innovation and flexibility" at plants slaughtering young and generally healthy market hogs. The consumer group Food and Water Watch called the proposed New Swine Inspection Sytems an attempt to privatize meat inspection and to speed up line speeds.
In one of USDA's biggest decisions in the Trump era, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue killed the so-called GIPSA rule on fair play in livestock marketing. Two months later, the farm group Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed suit in the U.S. appeals court in St. Louis for reinstatement of the rule, issued in the closing weeks of the Obama administration.
Tyson, the largest poultry company in the U.S., has failed at its second attempt to find a location for a new meatpacking facility in Kansas. Last week, an economic development group in Sedgwick County withdrew its bid for the $320 million plant. The decision came amidst an outpouring of public backlash, and follows Tyson’s squashed attempts earlier this year to build the same facility in Tonganoxie, Kansas. (No paywall)
In one of its biggest decisions since President Trump took office, the USDA killed an Obama-era proposal that would make it easier for livestock producers to prove unfair treatment at the hands of meat processors. “They’re just pandering to the big corporations,” said small-farm defender Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, nearly shouting in his “violent opposition to what they are doing.”
Less than two weeks ago, Tyson food executives, officials in Tonganoxie and Leavenworth counties in Kansas and Gov. Sam Brownback revealed a $320-million plan to develop "a chicken hatchery, feed mill, meatpacking plant and 300 to 400 poultry grow houses," reports the Topeka Capital-Journal. By Monday, 2,400 residents, including many ranchers, had gathered in the streets to protest the chicken plant, cheering a sign held by a 4-year-old: “No Tyson! No friggin’ chickens! No kidding!”
JBS chairman Joesley Batista and chief executive Wesley Batista resigned from senior posts "in a corruption scandal that threatens to topple Brazil's president Michel Temer," said Reuters. The brothers, who own the world's largest meat producer, which has operations in the United States, admitted to paying $150 million, mostly in bribes, to nearly 2,000 politicians in Brazil, including its past three presidents, said the Wall Street Journal.