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BrownfieldAgNews reports:

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study last year's steep drop in cattle prices.

Grassley says the request is in response to concerns expressed by industry groups and constituents.

"People are calling in with questions about possible high frequency trading or the concentration levels of beef packers and their control over cattle feedlots," Grassley says.

One of the groups that has been calling for an investigation is R-CALF USA. CEO Bill Bullard says while they're pleased with Grassley's action, they would have preferred a congressional hearing on the issue.

"We've actually had mixed reactions to certain GAO reports," Bullard says. "In fact, back in 2009, the GAO concluded that the concentration within our cattle packing industry and our retail beef industry was not at all a problem-in fact, it was creating efficiencies."

Grassley says he wants the GAO to study the issue before deciding whether a congressional hearing is warranted.

Bullard says cattle market manipulation continues. He says meatpackers are "extracting more of the consumer beef dollar than is being allocated back to producers".

"Producers' cattle prices should be higher today than they are," he says, "and the meatpackers, we believe, are receiving a windfall profit from being able to purchase these cattle at the lower price."

Grassley says it is critical to ensure the beef market is functioning properly. "A free market approach, in other words, so the farmers receive a fair and un-manipulated price for raising the safe and affordable food that Americans enjoy."

Grassley says his letter to the GAO will be co-signed by several other members of the Judiciary Committee.

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