FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - A bipartisan group of state lawmakers joined Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Attorney General Daniel Cameron in asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the beef packing sector.

House and Senate members of the Interim Joint Agriculture Committee from both parties signed a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, stressing the need for confidence in the beef cattle market.

“We have heard from our constituents across the commonwealth about the wide disparity between the price of cattle and the price of processed beef,” the legislators wrote. “Some of us are cattlemen ourselves and have personally witnessed this disparity.”

The co-chairs of the committee are Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, and Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield.

“I am grateful to the bipartisan group of legislators who have joined the attorney general and me in asking the Department of Justice to keep a watchful eye on suspect price disparities between the price of beef at the farm level and at the grocery store,” Quarles stated. “It is critical Kentucky’s constitutional officers have the support from the General Assembly so we can have a united front on issues facing Kentucky families.”

Cameron also expressed gratitude for the lawmakers’ support, adding, “Kentucky’s cattle producers deserve answers about why they are continuing to make less, even as the price of beef increases.”

On May 15, Quarles and Cameron sent a letter to Barr asking the DOJ to look at possible price-fixing in the beef cattle industry. The letter noted that, despite steady consumer demand for beef, the prices paid to Kentucky’s cattle producers have declined, suggesting the presence of possible market manipulation and other anticompetitive practices. As a result, Kentuckian consumers are paying more for beef while hardworking Kentucky farmers are making less during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a report from Axios, the Justice Department has begun investigating the allegations.

Quarles has said Kentucky is the largest beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River, with more than 38,000 beef cattle farms in the state.

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