USDA Issues Packers and Stockyards Complaint against Merle Olson, d.b.a. Olson Cattle Co.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 11:00am

Release No.: 159-19

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2019 – As part of its commitment to ensuring fair and competitive markets for the livestock, meat and poultry industries, on Nov. 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a complaint against Merle Olson, doing business as Olson Cattle Co. (Merle Olson) of Montana, for alleged violations of the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act.

An investigation by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) revealed that Merle Olson engaged in multiple unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive practices by: failing to honor the pre-negotiated terms of contracts entered with three livestock sellers, resulting in damages to the livestock sellers totaling approximately $125,099; failing to timely pay the three livestock sellers; issuing a check to one of the livestock sellers without maintaining sufficient funds to support the payment of the check; and, failing to pay the full purchase price to one of the livestock sellers. The investigation also revealed that Merle Olson, as a market agency buying on commission, purchased 2,191 head of livestock for a buyer (principal), charged the principal commission fees totaling $55,456, and added undisclosed price markups totaling $15,034 in six transactions between Oct. 14 and Oct. 26, 2015.

The P&S Act requires subject entities to issue payment for livestock by the close of the first business day following purchase and transfer of possession. Failure to timely pay for livestock purchases, issuing insufficient funds checks, and failure to issue the full payment for purchases are unfair trade practices and violations of the P&S Act. Additionally, charging principals undisclosed price markups in commission purchases is an unfair practice and a violation of the P&S Act.

Merle Olson will have 20 calendar days following receipt of the complaint to respond directly to the USDA Administrative Law Judge or be found in violation and subject to penalty.

The P&S Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to assess civil penalties up to $11,000 per violation against any person after the notice and opportunity for hearing on the record. If the allegations are admitted, or proven in an oral hearing, Merle Olson may be ordered to cease and desist from violating the P&S Act and assessed a civil penalty.

The P&S Act is a fair trade practice and payment protection law that promotes fair and competitive marketing environments for the livestock, meat and poultry industries.

For further information about the Packers and Stockyards Act, contact Stuart Frank, Packers and Stockyards Division, at (515) 323-2586, or by email at

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