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DeLauro Demands USDA Investigate Tens of Millions in Payments to Corrupt, Brazilian-owned Meatpacker JBS

November 21, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC —  (November 21, 2019) Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) today sent a letter to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue calling for an investigation into tens of millions of dollars in payments to the corrupt, Brazilian-owned meatpacker JBS. The payments include millions of dollars of procurement awards through USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in addition to $90,075,263 the corporation received in 2018 through USDA’s trade aid program meant for struggling American farmers.

“I write to express deep concern regarding the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) continued and substantial payments to U.S. subsidiaries of the Brazilian-owned and controlled meatpacker JBS S.A.,” wrote DeLauro. “Based on well-supported and documented facts, JBS S.A. invested in U.S. subsidiaries as a result of numerous criminal violations that call into question the justification for their continuation as USDA contractors.”

“Much of the relevant corrupt and illegal behavior by JBS S.A. is related to the company’s entry to and consolidation of the United States meatpacking sector,” continued DeLauro. “Under a plea agreement with Brazilian prosecutors, Wesley and Joesley Batista, the leading JBS S.A. shareholders, admitted to numerous criminal acts consisting of the bribery of thousands of Brazilian government officials over a period of decades, including three consecutive Presidents of Brazil. Taxpayer dollars should never be used to subsidize corrupt, foreign-owned corporations who are engaged in illegal behavior. As a matter of public faith in the federal government, I urge you to immediately direct the Department’s Inspector General to conduct the necessary investigation and present findings to the agency’s suspension and debarment authority.”

Current federal regulations outline requirements for the federal procurement process, including a requirement for “maintaining the public’s trust and fulfilling public policy objectives.” Federal agencies have authority to suspend and/or disbar a government contractor based on causes that affect the “present responsibility” of the contractor. Recent media reports have summarized high-profile investigations into JBS, calling into question the corporation’s ability to meet the standard of “present responsibility.”

In September 2019, DeLauro pressed for transparency of USDA’s $28 billion trade aid program. Complying with a Congressional mandate included in the September’s continuing resolution, USDA provided the Appropriations Committee with details on the distribution of trade aid payments made in 2018. These documents revealed that JBS received awards totaling more than $90 million in trade aid payments that had initially been described as assistance for struggling American farmers and ranchers.

DeLauro serves as Vice-Chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for funding the USDA.