Brazilian-based meat packer with local facility under fire for getting $62 million in bailout money

Investigates

A Brazilian-owned meat packing plant, with a facility in KELOLAND, is getting millions in subsidies as part of a bailout program intended to help farmers hurt by the trade war. 

JBS has a location in Worthington, Minnesota. The USDA is buying pork from JBS through the Trump bailout plan. 

JBS has had nine government contracts to buy pork since the beginning of the year at a cost of $62 million in taxpayer money. 

The Justice Department has been investigating the meatpacking company for possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. 

JBS is owned by Joesley and Wesley Batista. 

The Brazilian brothers confessed to bribing hundreds of top officials in that country and have spent time in jail over the corruption scandal. 

According to the New York Times, in 2017, JBS was caught exporting rotten mean worldwide. In 2018, 12 million pounds of JBS ground beef were recalled in the U.S. due to people getting sick in from salmonella.  Last year the USDA also found that JBS had underpaid cattle producers in the U.S. at three slaughter facilities and JBS paid a $50,000 fine. 

The non-profit research and advocacy group, Organization for Competitive Markets, supports a bill that has been introduced into Congress called the Buy American Agriculture Act. It opposes the money going to foreign-owned JBS. 

“We do think that these bailouts should go to the family farmer. It is clear there is no evidence; farmers have already sold their commodities, their pork at a low market price. JBS now owns that pork. When the federal government purchases the pork, those dollars do not go back down to help those farmers who are struggling, that’s our point,” Joe Maxwell of Organization for Competitive Markets said.  

Cameron Bruett, Corporate Affairs for JBS USA tells KELOLAND Investigates it processes, “American hogs raised by U.S. farmers–the true program beneficiaries.”  Bruettt said, “This is not a bailout. We are paid for the work of our team members in the plant and the products we produce, which are used to support important federal feeding programs that assist U.S. citizens.”

JBS also points out the USDA program has the backing of National Pork Producers Council. 

Last fall the USDA cancelled a $240,000 purchase contract with Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods as part of the bailout program. Smithfield has a plant in Sioux Falls.  Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley spoke out against Smithfield for getting the aid intended to help American farmers hurt by China’s trade tariffs. The USDA said the move came at the company’s request. 

When KELOLAND Investigates asked Smithfield for comment on the matter, we were referred to an op-ed written in the Des Moines Register by Keira Lombardo, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Compliance. 

Lombardo also told KELOLAND Investigates,”Smithfield has not and is not participating in the trade mitigation programs, including the market facilitation program, food purchase and distribution program, and/or agricultural trade promotion program.” 

Now the Trump administration is recommending another $15 to $20 billion in bailout money in the trade war. 

“Clearly the farmers are suffering. Many of them are going bankrupt today. This could devastate or disseminate independent family agriculture; this trade war that’s going on. And clearly if there are going to be taxpayer payments; that’s what this is. If the American taxpayers are going to see their money used we think it ought to go directly, 100 percent of it, to Americas family farmers,” Maxwell said. 

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