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*George's responds to Justice Department lawsuit

Daily Staff Report

EDINBURG -- The company that bought a Tyson Foods poultry complex in Harrisonburg says the vast majority of farmers growing chickens for that operation are concerned a federal lawsuit challenging the purchase "may jeopardize their livelihoods."

George's Inc., which has a processing plant in Shenandoah County, planned to file its response to the U.S. Department of Justice suit in federal court Monday.

In a news release, the company says the paperwork includes "declarations signed by approximately 90 percent of the broiler growers in the Harrisonburg complex, who indicate they are concerned that if the sale to George's is set aside, 'there might not be another integrator that is able to take over the plant and run it at full capacity.'"

The lawsuit concerning George's purchase of the Harrisonburg operation was filed May 10. The Department of Justice has stated that the purchase would dampen competition.

According to the news release, the court filing includes charges that, despite its claims, the Justice Department was aware that the firms were close to completing the sale earlier this month. It also states that the Harrisonburg operation has lost more than $10 million in the past three years, and was operating well below its capacity.

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