WASHINGTON — Two lawmakers urged Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to suspend government contracts with meatpacking giant JBS SA, including its subsidiaries.
In the letter sent to Vilsack on April 19, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) detailed the alleged “criminal behavior” of JBS and the Brazilian investment company that owns JBS, J&F Investimentos SA.
“… it appears clear that the history of misconduct by J&F, JBS, and Pilgrim’s Pride rises to a level justifying suspension and debarment beyond punitive grounds,” the lawmakers wrote.
The letter points to employment of minors in JBS plants — a controversy that has arisen after the Department of Labor began an investigation into Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI). Since the investigation, JBS has ended its contract with PSSI.
Furthermore, the letter cites $3.4 billion in fines and penalties accrued by the company in the United States and Brazil.
JBS governmental contracts were the subject of concern for former Representative Carolyn Maloney, who wrote to Vilsack in June 2022. Vilsack responded that the US Department of Agriculture did consider suspension or debarment proceedings of JBS, but the agency decided not to pursue either at the time.
“Removing a firm from government-wide procurement would potentially impair competitive choice for the taxpayer in securing affordable food for the range of needs that government must provide for, from school lunches to meals for our soldiers,” Vilsack wrote in his letter sent in November 2022.
Nikki Richardson, a spokesperson for JBS USA, provided a statement regarding Warren and Raskin’s letter:
“It is a privilege to participate in federal food assistance programs that help alleviate food insecurity and provide meals to Americans in need,” she said. “The eligibility of participants is the sole discretion of USDA.”