Lawsuit Underway in Cattle Price Fixing Case

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Attorneys said Tuesday in federal court that the nation's largest packer used contracts with a favored few ranchers to dictate the price of cattle and cause thousands of cattlemen to lose billions of dollars.

But lawyers for IBP Incorporated, which merged with Tyson Foods in 2001, countered that the contracts are based on the open-market price of cattle.

It was the first day of testimony in a class-action lawsuit accusing the company of violating the federal Packers and Stockyards Act.

The Plaintiffs claim to represent as many as 30,000 cattlemen who sold cattle to IBP or Tyson Fresh Meats between 1994 and 2002. But Tyson says no one knows how big the group is.

Plaintiffs' attorney David Domina of Omaha, Neb. told jurors the marketing agreements amount to a captive supply of cattle. He said the agreements allowed the company to enter the markets when prices were low and pull back when prices rose.

But Tyson Attorney Thomas C. Green said IBP didn't invent the idea of marketing agreements. They maintain cattlemen did.