OKLAHOMA CITY—Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma Sec. of Agriculture Blayne Arthur penned a joint letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland May 21. The letter expresses support for the ongoing U.S. Dept. of Justice antitrust investigation into the U.S. meatpacking industry. The letter deems the investigation necessary “to determine if any manipulation, collusion, or other illegal activity may be occurring and ensure market transparency.”

“We are extremely grateful to Gov. Stitt and Sec. Arthur for recognizing the potential for antitrust behavior in the beef industry and calling upon the U.S. Attorney General to continue to take action,” said American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR) Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “Oklahoma ranchers have been begging for relief from a dysfunctional marketplace. Once again, Gov. Stitt has shown he is in touch with our state’s ranchers and is listening to our concerns.”

The joint letter penned to U.S. Attorney General Garland specifically expresses concern over the substantial margins between live cattle and retail beef prices that have widened in recent years, the historic level of consolidation in the meat packing sector, and the minimal level of competition in the marketplace.

The letter states: “If any market manipulation does exist, it is vital for the continuation of the American beef industry that it be identified and fairness in the market be restored.”

“The independent ranchers of our country just want a place in their own industry,” said Blubaugh.  “In fact, their very existence hinges on marketplace reform. Gov. Stitt is an entrepreneurial businessman and he certainly recognizes grit. Oklahoma ranchers have a lot of grit; we just need someone to stand on our side.”

Ranchers have worried about the gradual consolidation of the meat packing industry for decades, as they have found it increasingly difficult, and sometimes impossible, to conduct business in the black. Two significant market-disrupting events—an August 2019 Tyson processing plant fire and the 2020 Coronavirus processing plant closures—resulted in record-setting price disparity between live cattle and retail beef prices. Ranchers took significant losses on their cattle, consumers paid inflated prices at the grocery store and large meatpackers benefited in between.

“If we lose our independent ranchers, so goes a stable supply of competitively-priced beef for American consumers,” said Blubaugh. “Gov. Stitt clearly recognizes the severity of the situation. This letter is a vote of support for both ranchers and consumers and I could not be more pleased. Thank you, Gov. Stitt and Sec. Arthur, for recognition of the cattle market situation and the vote of support for our industry.”

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.