A federal jury trial date has been set to consider claims made against four of the country's largest beef packers who are claimed to have misreported the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) boxed beef prices in 2001.

The case, to be tried on 3 April 2006, was first filed two and a half years ago by cattle producers Herman Schumacher, Michael Callicrate and Roger Koch, who all sold cattle to the defendant-packing companies that will stand accused - Tyson Fresh Meats, Cargill Meat Solutions, Swift & Co, and National Beef Packing.

District Court Judge Charles Kornmann certified the case as a class action on behalf of all cattle producers who sold fed cattle on the cash market in June 2004 and the trial follows motions by the defendants to have the case dismissed, which Judge Kornmann denied in January this year.

Under mandatory US boxed beef reporting laws, packers have to report twice daily to USDA certain cattle-price information. During the alleged misreporting period, the prices the packers reported are alleged to have contained errors that actually underreported the price the packers were receiving for boxed beef, which had the effect of depressing the prices cattle producers received for fed cattle sold to the packers during the same time period.