Parties continue legal wrangling PDF Imprimir E-mail

While the Justice Department has accused George's Inc. of harming chicken farmers by taking over a Tyson Foods plant in Harrisonburg, the chicken processor says it is the lawsuit that is detrimental to poultry growers.

The two chicken companies closed on the $3.1 million deal on May 7.

"The Transaction violates ... the Clayton Act because its effect may be substantially to lessen competition for the services of broiler growers operating in and around the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia and West Virginia," according to the complaint filed May 10 by the Justice Department's antitrust division.

Before the sale, area chicken farmers had a choice of three processing facilities -- George's in Edinburg, Tyson, and Pilgrim's Pride, which has plants in Timberville and Moorefield, W.Va.

A news release filed the same day by the department says the deal closed "despite the parties' awareness of the department's serious antitrust concerns about the transaction, and without providing a response to the information requested by the department."

An email dated May 13 from George's attorneys, John Harkrider and Michael Keeley, to the antitrust division's Jill Ptacek and Bill Stallings says the company takes issue with the complaint and news release. George's and Tyson's let the division know closing was "imminent," it says.

The email says the antitrust division issued a burdensome civil investigative demand on George's and Tyson's, even though both parties had willingly provided "considerable information" to the division.

The Tyson plant had been losing about $140,000 each week and more than $10 million in recent years, the email says.

"These losses negatively impacted growers who were facing increased out time between flocks and employees who were not able to work full shifts," it says. "The only way to stem these losses, and to protect the jobs of the 500 people who worked in the plant and the livelihood of dozens of growers, was for an integrator who was able to rely upon synergies from a nearby plant to acquire the facility."

On Monday, George's filed a motion saying it wanted the case to move through court expeditiously. Numerous affidavits were also filed.

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