Dakota Dunes - IBP has won an important decision in its defense against a lawsuit filed four years ago by a small group of cattle producers, company officials reported today.

The district court this week ruled against the group's request to make their case a class action lawsuit. The decision is the latest development in a legal battle that began in 1996 when 10 cattlemen sued IBP in U.S. District Court in Alabama. Those cattlemen alleged the company used marketing agreements with other livestock producers to reduce cattle prices.

"This ruling is another indication this case is coming to a successful close," according to Gene Leman, chief executive officer of IBP Fresh Meats Company. "The plaintiffs' allegations are simply without merit. Numerous studies have proven that changes in cattle prices are due to basic supply and demand, not packer concentration or livestock marketing agreements."

"We are completely dependent upon cattle producers to provide a steady supply of livestock to keep our plants running efficiently," he said. "We have no reason to do anything that would be detrimental to their operations."

The plaintiffs' latest request for class certification consisted of feedlots that have sold cattle to IBP. However, senior judge Lyle Strom ruled "it would be inappropriate to certify the class" since the cattlemen's group has "not demonstrated the feedlot owners have standing to bring claims on behalf of the cattle owners."

It will now be up to the plaintiffs to decide whether to appeal this week's ruling. In the meantime, IBP will soon submit more evidence to support its pending motion to dismiss the case. The company filed the motion for summary judgment in September.