IBP’s Liability Not Off Hook Despite Court Ruling, Say Cattlemen’s Lawyers

October 24, 2000 NEWS RELEASE       

Cattlemen’s Legal Fund

IBP’s Liability Not Off Hook Despite Court Ruling,
Say Cattlemen’s Lawyers

WHEN FEDERAL JUDGE, Lyle Strom, denied Class Certification in the ongoing class-action lawsuit, many in the beef industry jumped to the conclusion that the case was over.
Nothing could be further from the truth, say the Plaintiffs’ lawyers, noting that steps are now underway to redefine the “class” in a new form which will win Court approval, and allow the case to proceed to trial.

“Nobody except the defendant, IBP, and their supporters deny the truth of our claims. The facts in this case are clear and on our side, but so far, the law and procedures are not. The lawyers must and will use the truth to get IBP to trial and get a judgment,” said one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, Randy Beard.

“Even if we end up with only one plaintiff, this case will go to trial.”

Cattle producers are of the opinion that they were once again denied the justice they could expect from the court. Judge Strom had the broad discretion to define a “class” acceptable to the Court, and to forward this case for trial. Yet he decided, instead, to almost let IBP off the hook, they say.
“Regardless of IBP’s claims,” said Mike Callicrate, one of the original Plaintiffs, “There’s no doubt that IBP is depressing prices to producers through their illegal use of captive supplies and other methods.
“It’s unfortunate that because a method of distributing damages can’t be agreed upon, that this agricultural plunderer should get off the hook. Cattle producers don’t care about damage awards, they care about stopping the illegal behavior of IBP that is forcing them out of business,” he said.
Callicrate pointed out that USDA has failed miserably in its enforcement responsibilities of the very powerful, market protecting Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act).

As a result, he said, “They’re now leaving a few independent cattlemen and private lawyers saddled with the enormous task of restoring competition and fair prices to the cattle industry.”

“Congress placed the P&S Act in the hands of the Secretary of Agriculture to enforce,” Callicrate stated. “The Act was passed in 1921 to prevent the, then powerful and monopolistic, meatpacking cartel from ever again exerting abusive market power, which brought down the cattle industry in the early 1900’s. In 1921, five packers controlled less than fifty percent of the market compared to four, controlling over eighty percent today.”

Another of the Plaintiff’s attorneys, David Domina, stated in a client communication that, “Nothing in the Order expresses any judgment, or hint of judgment, about the legality of IBP’s conduct or the propriety of its market practices. The ruling is not a commentary on the use of captive supplies.”
As a rebuttal to IBP’s claim that supply and demand have been the primary cause of low cattle prices, Domina wrote:

“Strong evidence has developed during this case–through the course of nearly a hundred depositions and tens of thousands of pages of materials–to prove a cause-effect relationship between captive supply usage and cash price changes.”

“Cattlemen throughout the industry,” said Callicrate, “Are now awaiting the next development which should be a redefining of the “class” and the setting of a trial date and seeing justice done in a Federal Alabama courtroom.”
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