The USDA announced an investigation into beef prices after a plant fire earlier this month that shut down a Tyson Foods Inc. slaughterhouse in Holcomb, Kansas. Farmers are worried that large meat packers will take advantage of the situation and drop their offering prices.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “As part of our continued efforts to monitor the impact of the fire at the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kansas, I have directed USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division to launch an investigation into recent beef pricing margins to determine if there is any evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions of competition, or other unfair practices. If any unfair practices are detected, we will take quick enforcement action. USDA remains in close communication with plant management and other stakeholders to understand the fire’s impact to industry.
“I have spent this summer visiting with cattle ranchers across the country, and I know this is a difficult time for the industry as a whole. USDA is committed to ensuring support is available to ranchers who work hard to the feed the United States and the world.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Jennifer Houston said “Today’s announcement by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue demonstrates the government’s understanding of the extreme strain placed on the cattle industry by the plant fire in Holcomb, Kansas.
“We encourage USDA to look at all aspects of the beef supply chain and to utilize internal and external expertise in this investigation. We believe it adds transparency that will help build confidence in the markets among cattlemen and women.”
While Tyson plans to reopen the plant, it will take time to get back to normal. For now, Tyson is trucking everything to the plants in Texas and Nebraska. The Kansas plant processed 6,500 cattle a day.