WICHITA, Kan. -- A battle is taking shape over whether a meatpacking company broke the law when it quit buying cattle from a feedlot after one of its managers criticized the packer in a livestock journal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture contends Farmland National Beef Packing Co. engaged in unjust practices when it cut back its purchases of cattle from the Callicrate Cattle Company Feedyard in St. Francis, Kan. An administrative hearing begins Tuesday in the case.
The complaint alleges Farmland routinely bought cattle at the feedlot, owned by Mike Callicrate, from 1986 to 1998. But a farmland buyer told Callicrate that the meatpacker had reservations about doing business with the feedlot, because a Callicrate manager had criticized Farmland in a livestock journal article, the USDA said.
After that discussion, Farmland stopped routinely buying cattle from Callicrate, the USDA said. In the first six months of 1999, it bought cattle at the feedlot only during three weeks, the agency said.
If the allegations are true, the USDA contends that Farmland violated the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.
Farmland denied the allegations, saying it expected to prevail at the hearing.
Farmland, one of the nation's biggest meatpackers, is a partnership of Farmland Industries Inc., based in Kansas City, Mo., and U.S. Premium Beef Ltd.
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