A bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature, LB 942, would remove the restriction on packer ownership of hogs in the state. The bill intends to grease the skids for corporate hog production. A hearing for LB 942 is scheduled for Tuesday, February 18th at the Capitol in Lincoln. The Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska Farmers Union and a growing group of family farmers, ranchers and small town Nebraskans will be there voicing opposition to the bill.
Increasing packer ownership of hogs relegates smaller, family farm producers to the role of residual suppliers, taking lower prices or lesser contracts at virtually every turn. Packers don’t contract outside of total confinement, which makes packer ownership a barrier to entry for young farmers because debt-financing confinement operations is a massive financial undertaking.
Moreover, packer ownership and the shift to total confinement production is a threat to the development of alternative pork production and marketing systems (e.g. Niman Ranch). And those alternative systems, including direct marketing, hold some of the best hopes for a new generation of family farm hog producers to get their start.
An 11th hour amendment to the bill to preserve the ability of processors to own corporate dairy operations begs the question, how long will it be before someone seeks to strike the prohibition on packer ownership of cattle too? I've said many times, in a world where packers own all the livestock, what place is there for farmers and ranchers? Nebraskans should reject LB 942.
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