The U.S. District Court in Minnesota dismissed an anti-trust lawsuit against meatpackers like Tyson Foods, JBS, the National Beef Packing Company, and Cargill. R-CALF led several plaintiffs in filing the lawsuit. Chief Judge John Tunheim did leave open the opportunity for plaintiffs to amend their complaint.
Tyson Foods says, “We’re pleased with the court’s decision.” In the ruling, the judge says the complaint didn’t give much evidence of how meatpackers conspired to manipulate prices for fed cattle; instead, “it resorted to group pleading, arguing that the market did this or that.” In his written opinion, Tunheim says, “The most specific allegations related to 2015 when JBS dropped its annual slaughter volume by 17 percent, National Beef by six percent, and Tyson by four percent.
Plaintiffs then say little about the defendants in the years that follow when slaughter volumes actually increased. As for other allegations like a reduction in the number of cash cattle purchased, the judge says plaintiffs rely almost exclusively on industry-wide data and ask the court to infer that the individual defendants all contributed to the decrease simply because they make up a majority of the industry.
The Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, the United Stockgrowers of America, and the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America filed the lawsuit in April of 2019.
On July 15, 2020 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a proposed rule making titled “Made in USA Labeling Rule.” In its rule, the FTC proposes to strengthen its Made in USA labeling requirements to reserve the USA label only for products in which, among other things, all significant processing that goes into the product occurs in the United States and all or virtually all ingredients of the product are made and sourced in the United States.
The FTC is specifically seeking public comments on whether there are any current statutes, rules or policies that may conflict with the FTC’s proposal.
R-CALF believes this is a chance to help re-instate MCOOL or mandatory country of origin labeling. In a press release R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said, “The conflict is this: While the FTC wants to ensure that only products actually made in the USA bear a “Made in USA” label, the Secretary of Agriculture has a policy that says a foreign beef product that enters the USA and is subject to only minor processing, such as being taken out of a big box and packaged in smaller boxes, can bear a “Product of USA” label.” Bullard continued with, “This is the very kind of conflict the FTC needs to hear about. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA)’s policy that allows a USA label on imported beef deceives consumers and should be considered fraud.”
Other agriculture and cattle industry groups have supported voluntary labeling, but have not supported mandatory labeling since it was repealed in the US following a WTO ruling.
To submit comments go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FTC-2020-0056-0001 and click on the comment box. Comments close September 14.