Greeley Tribune: Another $40M in federal subsidies awarded to JBS USA; lawmaker introduces bill to prioritize American purchases

by Trevor Reid | May 16, 2019

Steam rises in the air at the JBS Meat Packing Plant in Greeley in this 2013 Tribune file photo. (Jim Rydbom/For The Tribune)

JBS USA will receive another $40 million in federal subsidies through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s bailout program meant to help U.S. farmers negatively impacted by the international trade war.

According to reports from the Department of Agriculture, JBS USA secured nine contracts for federal purchases of JBS pork since mid-January, totaling nearly 18.5 million pounds of pork for $40.1 million. That’s in addition to previously awarded contracts for nearly 9.8 million pounds of pork for $22.3 million. In total, the company, a subsidy of Brazil-based JBS SA, will receive $62.4 million from the program, which is meant to mitigate trade war impacts to local farmers.

In November 2018, Smithfield Foods, owned by a Chinese firm, pulled its bid for $240,000 in pork payments after Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, echoed criticisms that the payment meant to help local farmers was going to an international firm.

The payments to JBS have been subject to the same criticisms, triggering a Connecticut lawmaker to introduce a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced HR-2712, “To require that purchases of agricultural commodities made by the Secretary of Agriculture under the Food Purchase and Distribution Program be from domestically owned enterprises, and other purposes.” The bill was referred to the House Agriculture committee.

JBS USA explained how the subsidies help local farmers in a statement to The Tribune when the first purchases were reported in January:

“JBS USA is proud to partner with U.S. family farmers and ranchers, helping create economic opportunity in hundreds of small, rural towns across our great nation each and every day,” the company said in the statement. “As an approved vendor in USDA food purchasing programs, all eligible JBS USA pork products come from American livestock raised on American farms by U.S. family farmers, and are processed in American facilities in rural American towns.”

Joyce Kelly, executive director of the Colorado Pork Producers Council and a Greeley resident, explained in January that the company contracts with small farmers and producers in the U.S. By purchasing the surplus pork, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help avoid saturating the market.

Critics of the payments, including Organization for Competitive Markets, also pointed to the company’s past corruption scandals in Brazil, which caused the company to pull a planned $500 million public offering on the U.S. stock market. The company also had the largest Food Safety and Inspection Service recall after expanding a recall in December to include more than 12 million pounds of raw beef.

At the company’s Greeley headquarters, JBS Carriers headquarters and a beef production facility, the company employs more than 4,000 people in Greeley, according to its website.