Beef market challenges take center stage in Congressional hearings

America’s farms and ranches are at risk of failure without antitrust reforms in the meatpacking industry, U.S. Sen Jon Tester told the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday as Congress started its first comprehensive look at antitrust legislation in a decade.

“We’ve got ranchers that are going broke. Ranches that are generational, that have been on the land three, four or five generations, are going broke,” Tester said. “Not because they’re bad operators, not because they made bad decisions. The model doesn’t work for them anymore. And we need to do something about that.”

The committee took up two bills Friday, co-sponsored by half its members, but primarily authored by Tester, a Montana Democrat, and fellow Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican. Montana doesn’t have a member on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The hearing was livestreamed.

The bills are intended to address the anti-trust issues in a highly consolidated meatpacking industry, in which four corporations control more than 80% of the nation’s beef supply, and even more of the United States pork and poultry industries.

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