David Defeats Goliath and other Corporate Farming Notes

While the recently passed Farm Bill continues to provide unlimited farm program payments and crop insurance premium subsidies to the nation’s largest and wealthiest mega-farms, there are some things that the legislation does – or more aptly, does not do – that merit mention. As the Farm Bill Conference Committee made an 11th hour deal to move the Farm Bill forward, changes to two major livestock market reforms were notably absent.

Meatpacking companies and their allies such as the National Pork Producers Council, lobbied hard through the very end to strip the Secretary of Agriculture’s ability to write rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act that would provide some protections for livestock and poultry producers. And the same industry groups fought to prevent the strong 2013 rules regarding country of origin labeling (COOL) of meat and other food products from being enacted.

This was a David and Goliath tale with scores of farm, ranch, rural, and consumer groups – including the Center for Rural Affairs – working together to win the day over well-heeled industry lobbyists. Of course, we will need to remain ever vigilant, especially in the Congressional appropriations process. That’s where industry lobbyists have secured legislative riders that prohibited USDA from completing much-needed rules to protect farmers and ranchers from undue, unjust. and discriminatory tactics use by large, multinational meatpacking corporations.

A bill introduced last month in the Nebraska Legislature, LB 942, would remove the restriction on packer ownership of hogs in Nebraska. Clearly, the bill intends to grease the skids for corporate hog production in Nebraska, under the logic that hog production is already significantly vertically integrated. However, as we’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.