From Washington with Karina Jones – Current events in the Judicial branch involving the cattle industry.

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From Washington with Karina Jones - Current events in the Judicial branch involving the cattle industry.

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Karina Jones is a real-life ranch wife in the Nebraska Sandhills, Field Director for R-CalfUSA and one of the most highly sought-after speakers in the cattle industry nationwide!

Good day everyone in farm and ranch country! The weather has harvesters hitting the pause button in some parts of the country. Hopefully, the weather delay doesn’t last too long in your area and the winds stay away, keeping the crops upright. On the other side of the commodity spectrum the cattle market saw volatility this week that should be able to be trumped by the fundamentals making the market correction short lived. 

While the Executive and Legislative branches of government continue to get back on track and progress on issues like the Farm Bill today, I wanted sort through some current events happening in the Judicial branch. 

The federal judiciary operates separately from the executive and legislative branches, but often works with them as the Constitution requires. Federal laws are passed by Congress and signed by the President. The judicial branch decides the constitutionality of federal laws and resolves other disputes about federal laws. 

In April of 2019 a massive anti-trust lawsuit was filed in The U.S. District Court for Minnesota. It was brought forth by R-CALF USA and the National Farmers Union (NFU) and others, against Cargill Inc., JBS S.A., Marfrig Global Foods (National Beef) and Tyson Foods Inc., alleging the Big Four packers violated multiple antitrust laws starting in early 2015 over fed cattle markets and prices. In order for the judicial system to operate efficiently, they run a sorting alley of their own and decided to add in multiple cases that were consolidated to eliminate duplicative discovery, inconsistent pre-trial ruling and to conserve resources for everyone involved in the litigation. 

Under a court decision, retailers and wholesalers including Albertson, HyVee, Kroger, Subway, Sysco and many others had their claims consolidated into the same case already brought by National Farmers Union and R-CALF. This case is still in the grueling discovery phase and very much alive and kicking. 

Earlier this fall, the same judge, in the same court of the aforementioned lawsuit, dismissed a claim made by cow calf producers.  But Judge Tunheim found the harm they suffered was too far removed from the meatpackers’ alleged price and supply manipulation. Basically, the law is only looking for those harmed directly by anti-competitive behavior, so because these cow calf producers do not sell directly to the meat packers, the judge thought it was too farfetched. But it did bring more attention to this issue.  

The US Department of Justice has its own flurry of litigative battles and investigations involving the Big 4. The investigation regarding the infamous Holcomb fire is still in process. Multiple lawmakers have called for updates, but the DOJ and USDA seem to be keeping a lid on this investigation and not letting much information see the light of day.  

Last week I reported in detail about the Justice Department allegations against Indiana-based Agri Stats, alleging its collection and sharing of meat industry data “enables and encourages” price-fixing among processors in the markets for chicken, pork and turkey. This may prove that the Big 4 have co-conspirators in their alleged anti-competitive activity. 

No matter the outcomes of these cases, the judicial branch depends on the executive branch to enforce court decisions, which may add another layer of difficulty to creating the change that needs to happen. 

Meet right back here next week for more ag news from our nation’s capital. 


Join me right back here next week as I bring you more ag news from our nation’s capital.  

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Karina ranches with her husband, Marty, and 4 children near Broken Bow, NE. She grew up in western NE, with roots also in southwest SD. The cattle industry and raising kids is her passion.

Tune in Fridays on The Hot Barn Report, where she deep dives into cattle industry issues and highlights industry reforms or listen to Ranch Raised with Karina Jones a slice of daily life on the Jones Ranch.

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