After attempts to convince government agencies to crack down on perceived monopolistic practices by meat and poultry companies in recent years, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has introduced legislation aimed at strengthening the powers of antitrust enforcers to break up meatpacking and poultry processing companies that own a disproportionate percentage of the market, according to a release from the senator’s office.
The Strengthening Antitrust Enforcement for Meatpacking Act follows Tyson Foods’ announcement that it will close poultry plants in southern Missouri, costing the state more than 2,000 jobs, the senator says.
“Today's meatpacking monopolists are making massive profits while shutting down competition,” said Senator Hawley. “Congress must give antitrust prosecutors the power to end anti-competitive behavior without lengthy court battles. It’s time to hold monopolies accountable and empower farmers.”
The act would amend the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 to establish thresholds for market concentration, giving authorities more ability to prohibit or unwind acquisitions that concentrate the meatpacking industry. It also would disincentivize current meatpacking interests from buying up additional competitors.
Hawley first began pursuit of breaking up big meatpacking companies during the Covid-19 pandemic, in a co-signed request to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin that highlighted how the closures of a handful of plants had significant impacts on the supply of meat.
Then, in August 2021, Hawley wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging the administration to crack down on the meatpacking industry’s anti-competitive behaviors, suggesting the USDA revoke plants’ inspection services.