The beef industry got a taste of how the simmering immigration issue can impact economics last Tuesday when an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division temporarily shuttered six Swift and Company production facilities.
Those facilities represent all of Swift's domestic beef processing capacity and 77% of its pork processing capacity, according to Swift officials.
Employees at the plants were questioned by ICE agents as part of an identity-theft investigation allegedly involving Swift employees.
The day of the raid, Swift spokesmen explained, "Any loss of a significant number of employees at any facility could adversely affect the operations of that facility until Swift is able to replace any lost members of its workforce and return to normal production levels."
According to the company, approximately 1,300 workers were detained by ICE for further questioning. The Company was able to resume operations at all facilities the same day, but at reduced output levels.
Even supposing production chatters along without another hiccup, the move certainly cost cattle feeders who sold earlier than later in the week, in part concerned there wouldn't be room at the inn for past due entries on their show lists. Early week sales were $1-$2/cwt. lower than the previous week; they ended the week at mostly $85-$85.50, down $1-$1.50.
"Swift believes these actions by the government violate the agreements associated with the Company's participation over the past ten years in the federal government's Basic Pilot worker authorization program and raise serious questions as to the government's possible violation of individual workers' civil rights," explained a statement issued by the company.
Until the broader immigration issue is resolved, last week's reality opens a wider gap of uncertainty in the marketplace, more room for rumor and innuendo to overwhelm logic and fundamentals.