Friday, February 3, 2017

U.S. chicken farmers file another lawsuit

A group of broiler growers has filed another lawsuit, this one in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, accusing major U.S. chicken processors of collusion.

It’s similar to lawsuits filed in September.

Haff Poultry Inc. and others accuse Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride and several other large companies of acting as a “cartel” by sharing data leading to lower prices offered to contract growers.

The complaint alleges that processors also conspired to not hire broiler farmers who were working for other defendants. The suit seeks treble damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.

Tyson Foods said the lawsuit contains “false claims.”

“We want our contract farmers to succeed and don’t consult competitors about how our farmers are paid,” company spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an emailed statement.

Sanderson Farms, meanwhile, noted the lawsuit in a regulatory filing that the company plans “to defend it vigorously.”

USDA proposed rules late last year partly to help protect chicken farmers from what they deem unfair treatment by processors, but President Donald Trump has frozen the rules while his administration reviews regulations passed at the end of Barack Obama’s last term.

It sounds like the big poultry processors might be running a system of supply management. Tsk, tsk!