Frequently Asked Questions:

   Packer Investigation


 The timeline surrounding the investigation into unfair pricing within meatpacking industry will be approaching one year in a few short months. Producers have been impatiently awaiting results from the original USDA investigation since the Tyson plant fire in Holcomb, Kansas last August.

The Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association was involved in requesting the initial investigation and subsequently involved in the request to expand the investigation to include the price disparity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. We have worked with our state and federal legislation as well as other cattle industry partners to constantly push for results.

In the past nine months, countless requests from congressmen and women, state and national cattle organizations, and attorneys general have reached both the USDA and Department of Justice to urge swift action and results from the ongoing investigation.

We have summarized the investigation timeline, consisting of our office's action items, below.




·     August 9 - Tyson Foods’ Holcomb, Kansas, beef processing plant is seriously damaged by a mid-evening fire. The Holcomb plant processed about 6,000 cattle a day, which is about 6% of all the cattle processed in the United States. 

·     August 28 - USDA Packers and Stockyards Division launches an investigation to determine whether there were unfair beef pricing practices after the fire at the Tyson slaughterhouse in Kansas. The call came after farmers expressed concern of extreme volatility in the market.

·     October 3 - KCA hosted a producer town hall meeting in Marion County to discuss volatility in the cattle markets with Congressman James Comer.


  ·     January 20 - The first recorded U.S. case of the coronavirus is reported.

 ·     February 25 - Reports of a spike in novel coronavirus cases outside of China sends major U.S. financial indices and futures markets tumbling as investors and traders try to assess the current and             potential impact on global economic growth. Cattle futures plummeted mostly limit-down in Feeder Cattle and near limit-down in Live Cattle.

 ·     March 13 - President Donald Trump declares a national emergency.

 ·     March 15 - Meat sales in grocery stores soar 77% with ground beef being the most purchased beef item.

 ·     March 18 - NCBA sends a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Congress requesting that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) keep a close eye on the cattle markets to ensure that no one tries to use the uncertainty of the live cattle market to manipulate or illegally take advantage of the situation.

 ·     March 30 - The first beef packing plant, JBS Souderton, announces a partial shutdown due to COVID-19.

 ·     April 6 - KCA participates in NCBA’s Cattle Marketing Working Group meeting to discuss the market situation and recommend actions items to the Executive Committee. One action was to send a letter to President Trump elevating the need for an investigation.

 ·     April 8 - NCBA President, Marty Smith, sends a letter to President Trump asking him to direct USDA to expand the ongoing investigation into market activity after the Holcomb fire to include market volatility caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

 ·     April 8 - Secretary Sonny Perdue announces USDA would be expanding the agency's investigation into cattle markets to include the market reactions surrounding the Holcomb fire and the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.

 ·     April 8 - KCA sends a letter to USDA thanking them for expanding their investigation to include market volatility caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

 ·     April 8 - Kentucky Congressman James Comer sends a letter applauding USDA’s decision to further expand their investigations into the cattle markets.

 ·     April 10 - KCA participates in a call with Secretary Perdue to discuss the investigation of packer margins. On the call, Secretary Perdue reports that the Packers and Stockyards Division will be working with the Department of Justice during the investigation since they did not feel they had enough tools within USDA to investigate the full critical scope from a document standpoint.

 ·     April 10 - KCA along with Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles speak with Andy Barr’s office on the status of the packer investigation.

·     April 20 - Twenty-two state cattle organizations send a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr requesting a formal investigation by the Department of Justice to identify and investigate any evidence of fraudulent business practices within the beef meatpacking industry.

 ·     April 28 - President Trump signs an executive order that orders beef packing plants to remain open and employees in those plants to remain at work through the COVID-19 pandemic.

 ·     May 1 - KCA encourages our Congressional leaders to sign on to a letter urging USDA to release the findings of their investigation as soon as possible. The letter, led by Oklahoma Representative Frank Lucas, had 24 members of the House sign - including Kentucky Congressmen James Comer, Brett Guthrie, and Andy Barr.

 ·     May 5 - Eleven State Attorneys General send a letter urging the Department of Justice to investigate the nation's leading meat processing companies, suggesting price-fixing could be behind rising retail costs and declining producer profits.

 ·     May 6 - President Trump announces at a White House event that he asked the Department of Justice to investigate meatpacker pricing activity.

 ·     May 17 - Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron jointly drafts a letter asking the Department of Justice to investigate the meatpacking industry.