Special Investigator Act Draws Fire From Farm Groups


By Michelle Rook, AgWeb 

June 20, 2022


The Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act passed in the House last week and includes a plan to establish a USDA office to prosecute anticompetitive practices in food and agriculture.


Various lawmakers and farm groups were quick to criticize the language in the bill that would create a Special Investigator's office inside USDA to investigate meat and poultry competition issues.


House Ag Committee Ranking member Representative G.T. Thompson called Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act quote "more cops for cows".  He thinks the bill is an attempt to score political points by blaming meatpackers for inflation but will have to immediate effect on prices. 


Many livestock groups on the Hill agreed with Thompson including the National Pork Producers Council, North American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.   They say the bill creates a position to look at anticompetitive matters. However, that duplicates the work of numerous federal investigative agencies, including DOJ, the FBI and USDA's Packers and Stockyards division who have existing authority, staff and budget to investigate anticompetitive actions.  


The groups add this bill is underfunded by nearly 40%, which will divert critical resources away from the Agriculture Marketing Service of USDA at the expense of other critical programs like market data reporting. 


Ethan Lane, National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs says, "So its really sort of missing the mark to not address the understaffing the agency already charged with oversight of a Packers and Stockyards Act and instead create this new sort of super impowered investigative branch strictly focused on meat and poultry competition issues.   You know we know that P&S last year had about 2100 cases they worked on and less than 1% of those were competition focused issues...


more, including video report [2:05 min.]