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Texas Agriculture Commissioner calls on U.S. attorney general to investigate meatpackers for price-fixing

HOUSTON – Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is calling on U.S. Attorney General William Barr to launch a probe into potential price-fixing involving beef.

The two-page letter to AG Barr starts with the title, “RE: U.S. meatpackers potential price-fixing within the cattle industry” and near the end is where Commissioner Miller makes a request for a probe writing, “I am asking that you investigate the processes of pricing in the U.S. beef industry and see that the all parties in the industry are financially treated fairly.”

In an exclusive interview with Channel 2 Investigates on Thursday afternoon, Commissioner Miller said the move was to protect Texas farmers and ranchers financially.

“The average cowman is losing about $300 a head and the packer is making somewhere between $800 and a $1000 a head, so there is a disparity in price,” Miller said.

The cost of feed and fuel are down which, according to Miller, should translate to lower production and retail prices in the two-page letter he points out, “Yet, retail beef prices remain high and our nation’s cattle producers are not sharing in the profits.”

Miller also writes that he believes the markets are being manipulated, “Somewhere, and somehow, the equities of the beef industry are being skewed, and it’s not in favor of the rancher. Historically, live beef prices controlled the live beef futures trading. Today, that is reversed. Some investor, who has never laid a hand on a live calf, can dabble in the futures market and make or break some Texas cattle raiser working in the dust to vaccinate his or her cattle.”

When asked if he was taking a shot at the financial market? Miller responded, “There is so much speculation in the market now that somebody sitting in a desk in Chicago can rub out the market price that a rancher received for his steer when it comes out of the feedlot.”

Miller made note of the challenges with coronavirus but says there is still no reasoning for the disparity in pricing.

“I understand that the virus is causing some supply problems and some delays in our packing, but still this should not be happening this way,” he said.

Commissioner Miller also sent his letter Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton as well as President Donald Trump.

Read the full two-page letter below: