IN Brief

Jury finds Senate candidate’s family-owned company price gouged eggs

By: - November 22, 2023 11:37 am

U.S. Senate Candidate John Rust’s former company has been found guilty of price-gouging eggs by a jury and must pay damages. (Getty Images)

An Illinois jury found on Tuesday that several companies, including one co-owned by a U.S. Senate candidate from Indiana, conspired to restrict the supply of eggs to drive up the prices.

Rose Acre Farms Inc. — previously chaired by John Rust, who is running to succeed U.S. Sen. Mike Braun — Cal-Maine Foods Inc. and two egg-industry groups will have to pay damages to General Mills Inc., a Kraft Heinz Co. unit, Kellogg Co. and Nestle SA. The same jury will determine the damages to be awarded in a trial scheduled to begin on Nov. 29, as reported by Bloomberg.

Rust said he couldn’t comment on the case because it is still under adjudication. Rose Acres also said it couldn’t comment for the same reason.

Rust is challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, a Columbia City Republican, who has the backing of the Indiana Republican Party, a commanding lead and Braun’s endorsement.

“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 said in a statement. “While Indiana families struggle to put food on the table, he’s making it even harder to do that. Hoosier families deserve to know whether he is bankrolling his campaign with money he made ripping off Hoosier families by gouging the price of eggs for decades and through the COVID pandemic.”

According to court filings, the business competitors coordinated to  limit the supply of eggs by timing their slaughters earlier and delaying hatchings — starting in 2000. In particular, Rose Acre exported eggs even when it didn’t have a surplus, decreasing the domestic supply, and “under the guise of animal welfare” reduced henhouse density.

Emails included in the final arguments include messages from Marcus Rust to John Rust, his brother, detailing plans to reduce the egg supply under financial pressure from egg industry groups.

Marcus Rust now chairs Rose Acres after John Rust stepped down. The company is the second-largest egg producer in the United States.

Rust Senate campaign

John Rust is already in court in another case trying to access the ballot for the Republican primary in May.

Senate candidate Rust pushes for primary ballot access in court

According to state law, a person wanting to run as a Democrat or Republican must vote in that party’s primary the last two times they voted. If someone doesn’t meet that requirement, the county chair can sign off.

Rust didn’t vote in 2020 or 2022 and pulled a Republican primary ballot in 2016 but voted Democrat before that. The law was previously more flexible and changed in 2022 — a difference that Rust says unfairly precludes him from the ballot.

Marion Superior Court Judge Patrick Dietrick heard arguments in the case earlier this month.

The timing of the case matters. Two candidates filed a similar suit during the 2022 election cycle but a judge dismissed this cases because the May primary had passed before the case made it to the appellate court.

In his court filing, Rust said he filed months ahead of the primary election on purpose.

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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.

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