This month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote in a letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had inquired about JBS’s government contracts, that “removing a firm from procurement would likely impact our ability to secure affordable food,” a “situation that highlights the urgency of efforts to promote a more equitable and diverse food system.”
Mr. Vilsack said that the agency was putting into place new programs to make it easier for smaller producers to sell to the department, which oversees farming and also administers several social welfare programs, including free school lunches.
In 2014 Brazilian prosecutors exposed a sprawling corruption scheme that implicated JBS, one of the country’s largest employers with more than 150,000 workers, as well as other major companies. J&F Investimentos, the Brazilian holding company that is the controlling shareholder of JBS, eventually agreed to pay $3.2 billion in reparations and fines in connection with the corruption case. The holding company acknowledged bribing public officials to sign off on investments so it could expand its business internationally.
In a 2020 plea agreement, J&F pleaded guilty to related charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice. Since then, the holding company says, it has developed a robust anti-corruption program for JBS, a requirement of the plea deal.
Recently in Brazil, J&F announced that it would question the fine it had previously agreed to pay in court. Last month, a Supreme Court Justice, José Antonio Dias Toffoli, temporarily suspended payment.