USDA Reaches a Consent Decision and Civil Penalty with Merle Olson, d.b.a. Olson Cattle Co., for Packers and Stockyards Act Violations

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 - 2:00pm
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WASHINGTON, July 28, 2020– As part of its commitment to ensuring fair and competitive markets for the livestock, meat and poultry industries, on July 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reached a consent decision with 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) resulted in the issuance of an administrative complaint on Nov. 7, 2019, against Merle Olson. The investigation revealed that Merle Olson engaged in multiple unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive practices by failing to honor the pre-negotiated terms of contracts 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 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.

Under the consent decision, Merle Olson was assessed a $40,000 civil penalty, suspended for three years and nine months beginning 30 days after issuance of the order, and ordered to cease and desist the violations. The total civil penalty is also reducible by payment of restitution to the livestock sellers by Dec. 31, 2022. After the initial seven months of the active suspension, Olson may request a supplemental order to permit his salaried employment by another registrant or packer, subject to USDA’s verification and approval.  The total suspension is also reducible based on verification that Merle Olson has made full restitution to the livestock sellers.  The full Consent Decision is available at

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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