Republican Senate Candidate’s Family Egg Business Found Liable in Price-Fixing Conspiracy

Mark Landers
By Mark Landers

In a significant blow to the family business of a Republican Senate candidate, Rose Acre Farms was found liable for participating in a price-fixing conspiracy that manipulated the cost of eggs across the United States. John Rust, who recently stepped down as the chair of Rose Acre Farms to run for the Senate in Indiana, is now facing a dual challenge: a setback in his political campaign and a legal predicament involving his family’s company.

Rose Acre Farms has 2,000 employees with facilities in seven states and annual revenue over $600 million.

The lawsuit, brought forward by food industry giants including Kraft, Kellogg, General Mills, and Nestlé, alleged that Rose Acre Farms, along with other egg producers like Cal-Maine Foods, United Egg Producers, and United States Egg Marketers, engaged in a concerted effort from 1999 to 2008 to control the supply and artificially inflate the price of eggs.

The jury in the Illinois federal court agreed with the plaintiffs, finding substantial evidence of tactics like exporting eggs to reduce domestic availability, as well as reducing hen populations and culling flocks prematurely.

This decision doesn’t just have legal, but also has political ramifications for Rust, who only recently handed over the reins of Rose Acre to his brother. His Senate campaign, already struggling with endorsements, now grapples with this additional controversy. 

A Rose Acre Farms employee at a packaging facility in La Paz, AZ

Congressman Jim Banks, Rust’s primary opponent who has received endorsements from the Indiana Republican Party and former President Donald Trump, seized on the verdict. “Today’s verdict proves John Rust isn’t just a conman pretending to be a Republican, he is a crook who exploits working-class Hoosiers across Indiana for his own financial gain,” Banks was quoted by the Associated Press. “While Indiana families struggle to put food on the table, he’s making it even harder to do that.”

Further complicating Rust’s candidacy is a lawsuit he has filed against Indiana over a statute that may prevent him from appearing on the ballot. This statute requires candidates to have voted in two primaries for the party they’re affiliated with, or to have their candidacy approved by a county party chair. Rust’s voting record shows participation in Democratic primaries in 2006 and 2012, although he did vote as a Republican during the 2016 primary, as reported by the Indianapolis Star.

As the legal and political drama unfolds, the court is poised to assess damages starting on 29 November. The outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications, not only for Rose Acre Farms but also for the political landscape in Indiana.

Rose Acre Farms Tanya Cecil Grain and Railroad Terminal located at its Lone Cactus egg farm in Utting, Arizona was opened in 2018 to meet ever-increasing demand.

In Brief: Quick Background On The Case

    • The Allegation: Rose Acre Farms, alongside other major egg producers, was accused of artificially inflating egg prices. According to a lawsuit filed by major food corporations such as Kraft, Kellogg, General Mills, and Nestlé, these companies conspired to reduce the egg supply between 1999 and 2008, leading to higher prices.
    • The Verdict: A federal jury in Illinois found evidence supporting these claims, concluding that these producers, including Rose Acre, engaged in practices like exporting eggs to tighten domestic supply, culling flocks prematurely, and reducing the number of hens to inflate prices.
    • Impact on Consumers: This manipulation directly affected companies that rely on eggs, leading to inflated costs, which likely trickled down to consumers, making everyday grocery shopping more expensive.

Political Repercussions:

    • John Rust’s Involvement: John Rust, who led Rose Acre Farms until his brother succeeded him in September, is now facing political fallout in his bid for a Senate seat. His campaign has already encountered challenges, including lack of endorsement from key Republican figures like Congressman Jim Banks and former President Donald Trump.
    • Legal Battles: Adding to Rust’s woes is his ongoing lawsuit against Indiana over a state statute potentially barring him from the ballot due to his voting history. He has a mixed record of participating in Republican and Democratic primaries, which complicates his candidacy under current state law.

Opposition’s Response:

    • Congressman Jim Banks’ Statement: Banks, Rust’s primary opponent, didn’t mince words in his reaction to the jury’s decision. He labeled Rust as not only deceitful in his political stance, but also as someone who has exploited Indiana’s working class for personal gain. Banks underscored the irony of Rust’s actions in a period where many Indiana families are struggling with basic needs like food.

Awaiting Damages Assessment:

    • The court is set to deliberate on the extent of damages starting on November 29, a decision eagerly awaited by the affected companies and observers alike.
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