‘Extortion’ says R-CALF USA of Tyson action to halt Canadian fed cattle purchases
Tyson Food, Inc. (Tyson) is one of the world’s largest beef packers. Together, Tyson and just three other meatpackers control about 85 percent of the U.S. cattle and beef market. Alone, Tyson controls about one-fourth of the U.S. cattle and beef market.
With the lion’s share of the market, Tyson alone enjoys sufficient market power to impose its will on Congress and on courts. Left unrestrained by regulation, it can wreak havoc on individual livestock producers and on the food systems of entire countries.
According to R-CALF USA, that is exactly what Tyson is now attempting to do by its public announcement reported Oct. 24, in Meatingplace that it will cease and desist buying fed cattle from Canada until the courts overturn the country of origin labeling (COOL) rule implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on May 23, 2013.
“Tyson is flexing its muscle to demonstrate to our U.S. courts that it alone can literally devastate livestock producers in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere if it doesn’t get its way,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
“This is blatant economic and political extortion,” he added.
On Sept. 11, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the request by Tyson’s trade associations – the American Meat Institute (AMI) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) – to block USDA from implementing and enforcing the 2013 COOL rule.
The appeal by Tyson’s trade groups of the lower court’s refusal to block COOL is pending.
The COOL rule does not even require Tyson to label beef as Tyson claims. Instead, the COOL rule requires retailers to inform consumers about where the meat they sell was born, raised, and slaughtered. Tyson, however, is a meatpacker not a retailer.
Court documents show that Tyson wants retailers to label the beef they slaughter in U.S. packing plants as a product of the USA, even if the animal had spent its entire life in a foreign country.
Bullard said Tyson has a long history of using its political and economic power to bully cattle producers, Congress, and the courts.
“In 2003 Tyson threatened to conduct random audits of the books of U.S. cattle producers and to force them to secure third-party certifications if USDA implemented COOL. In 2008 it assisted Canada and Mexico in their complaint filed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the U.S. COOL law, and now it’s trying to extort a favorable ruling from the appellate court,” he said.
“Given the chance, Tyson and other multinational packers will exploit both producers and consumers, regardless of what country they operate in,” Bullard said adding, “That is why we need Congress to allow USDA to write rules to regulate the behavior of meatpackers like Tyson so they cannot continue to engage in their anticompetitive, retaliatory, and fraudulent behavior.”