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Kentucky attorney general, Ag commissioner ask William Barr to investigate alleged price fixing in the cattle industry

The two asked US Attorney General William Barr to have the Department of Justice investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the beef packing sector.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Is there price fixing in the cattle industry? 

Kentucky's attorney general Daniel Cameron and agriculture commissioner Ryan Quarles want an investigation by the nation's top cop to find out. 

Friday, the two sent a joint letter to US Attorney General William Barr asking for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the beef packing sector.

According to a news release, the letter states that "despite steady consumer demand for beef, the prices paid to Kentucky’s cattle producers have declined, suggesting the presence of possible market manipulation and other anticompetitive practices. As a result, Kentucky consumers are paying more for beef while hardworking Kentucky farmers are making less."

AG Daneil Cameron released this statement on why he's calling for an investigation:

“We’re urging DOJ to use the resources at its disposal to fully investigate allegations of anticompetitive practices in the beef processing sector, and we stand ready to assist with such an investigation in any way possible. Kentucky’s cattle producers and consumers already face incredible economic challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we must ensure that they are treated fairly in the marketplace and do not face additional hardship because of price fixing or other anticompetitive actions. I appreciate Commissioner Quarles partnering with us in this endeavor.”

Ag commissioner Ryan Quarles said this about the call for an investigation:

“As Kentucky and the nation move towards reopening the economy in a quick and responsible manner, consumers and farmers deserve to know if there is a scheme to threaten market competition in the beef industry. Our beef cattle producers have seen thirty and forty percent price drops since the start of the pandemic, even while the price of beef products at the grocery store has increased. I would like to thank Attorney General Cameron for joining me in this effort to make sure the beef industry isn’t rigged against Kentucky’s 38,000 hardworking cattle producers.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruptions at meat processing plants and created shortages nationwide. With only four beef processors controlling 80 percent of the American market, such disruptions further exacerbate pre-existing disparities between the price of live cattle and the wholesale price of beef, the news release says.

Dave Maples, Executive Director of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association expressed gratitude for their attention to the matter.

“On behalf of Kentucky’s beef cattle producers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, let me be the first to express my gratitude for the leadership of Agriculture Commissioner Quarles and Attorney General Daniel Cameron,” said . “Kentucky is the largest beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River, and both of these men understand the negative effects of any possible anticompetitive business practices on both consumers and our producers.”

WHAS11 News has covered several stories about the food supply chain and possible impact in the commonwealth. Many processing plants have dealt with COVID-19 infecting employees which led to plant shutdowns locally and nationally.