A small herd of cattle graze in a western Iowa pasture. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
The federal government will provide up to $15 million to enable states to investigate cases of price-fixing and other anti-competition violations in the nation’s meat and poultry markets, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week.
“Promoting competition and protecting consumers has always been a priority for this office,” said Tom Miller, the attorney general of Iowa. “With this increased funding and collaboration, we can continue vital work to protect Iowa farmers and improve our economy by ensuring fair and robust competition in meat processing. We can also ensure that our consumers pay fair prices for the food they purchase.”
Miller was among 16 attorneys general in December to solicit federal support to deploy personnel for the investigations.
The meat-packing industry has been under increased scrutiny this year amid record-high profits while producers have suffered — especially the smallest ones — since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Further, the costs of meat have increased for consumers. The situation has spurred federal lawmakers to consider new rules that might help balance the playing field.
In April, executives of the country’s largest meatpackers — which process about 85% of the nation’s beef supply — denied in a congressional hearing that they had colluded to keep prices high.
Miller did not specify what investigations the new federal money might support. Earlier this year, he indicated his office was also investigating fertilizer prices, which are about double what they were in early 2021.
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