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Grassroots organizations looking to keep Mountain States-Rosen lamb cooperative from bankruptcy acquisition

Montana Ag Network report for February 19
Posted at 12:43 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 14:54:55-04

Back on March 19th, the Mountain States-Rosen lamb cooperative, was pushed into filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to Covid-19. This week, grassroots efforts are being made by the sheep industry across the west to try and stop a bankruptcy acquisition of the cooperative’s processing facility in Greeley, CO, believing it will irreversibly harm competition in the domestic lamb market.

"Coming in mid-march We were of course gearing up for the Easter and Passover season. That is one of the busiest seasons for the US. lamb industry and so to lose food service at that point in time was absolutely devastating and resulted in the bankruptcy of what is our second largest packing facility here in the United States."

On Friday of this week, JBS USA owned by Brazilian JBS S.A., will close on its acquisition of the Greely Plant after submitting a winning bid during bankruptcy proceedings . JBS is the largest importer of Lamb in the U.S. It appears JBS is preparing to completely shut down all lamb processing at the site. If that occurs it will affect sheep growers in at least 15 western states immediately, adding more to already consolidated lamb processing industry.

"We've got really essentially three main plants here in the United States that do the overwhelming majority and of those three the top to being Superior Farms and the Mountain State's Rosen Plant. They do the vast majority of that. So it's a great concern when You lose, anytime. You lose your number twoPacker. That's a tremendous concern. As I've been discussing this custom analogies with the the Holcomb plant fire that we saw in the beef industry last year, you know losing that much capacity, even an industry as large as the beef industry took a tremendous hit so we know that losing this much capacity in the lamb industry. This is 15 to 20% of our packing capacity in the United States. It's going to be a big hit for our family farmers and Ranchers."

A new entity tried to purchase the facility out of bankruptcy to continue processing Lamb, but they missed the bid by $200k. With time running out, elected officials are calling on the department of justice to step in and protect competition.

"You know, big hats off to Senator Mike Lee of Utah really took the bull by the horns here and and led an effort to ask the Department of Justice to do an investigation into into the competitiveness to the Sheep industry and to take a look at how this sale will affect affect the Industry in the competitiveness of the industry."

The bicameral letter was signed by 12 law makers including Sen. Daines and Congressman Gianforte of Montana.

"Thanks to the efforts of though those folks asking for that investigation. I think that's going to go a really long way to ensure that the industry remains competitive. So we are hopeful that the Department of Justice will take this under advisement and and take some action before the lamb plan."

If lamb processing is shuttered at the Greeley plant, industry experts estimate at least a $150 to 200 million loss to the lamb industry this year alone .

Looking to ag events, Montana’s Young Ag Leadership Conference host organizations and committee regret to announce the cancelation of YALC 2020. Due to COVID-19 and our state's Phase 2 restrictions, they felt it was best to cancel the event. It was slated to take place in October in Great Falls. There will be upcoming announcements for YALC 2020 Online activities coming soon on their Facebook page. That’s todays farm and ranch news.