BILLINGS- — On Friday, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester held a press conference in Billings to announce his new bipartisan legislation aimed at combating what he called anti-competitive practices in the meat-processing industry.
Tester says the legislation will create an office of special investigators to look into competition within the packers and stockyard division of the USDA. This office would have subpoena powers.
Tester says that the beef industry is no longer competitive because “years of irresponsible consolidation in the agriculture sector has really left us with a broken system controlled by just a few massive corporations.”
The legislation comes after a recent cyber attack hurt production of one of the largest meatpackers in the country, JBS Foods, which said it paid an $11 million ransom.
“If this can happen to the meat industry, then it can also happen to the dairy and the grain sectors and a lot of other sectors too, so a single incident can threaten our nation's entire food supply,” says Tester.
Tester also said the bill will help bring down meat prices by holding large manufacturers accountable and help increase the competition for meat from Montana ranchers.
“We really believe in additional processing plants in Montana because that is what makes for an active market and it provides a superior product,” says Fred Wacker, owner of Cross Four Ranch Company.