On Jan 22, the Nebraska legislature voted to advance LB 176 to the bill’s final reading. The vote on final passage could occur as early as next week. LB 176, introduced by Senator Ken Schilz last session, would rescind Nebraska’s statute prohibiting meatpacking companies from owning and feeding hogs prior to slaughter.
Debate over the bill was halted when 33 Senators voted in favor of invoking cloture and ending debate. The bill was advanced from Select File by a vote of 32 to 12.
In a world where packers own all the livestock, what place is there for farmers and ranchers?
There is no other way to see this vote, other than corporate money talked, and too many senators listened. Meatpackers want to own hogs because that’s where the profit is. They’d rather someone else did all the work of raising the pigs, stood all the risk, and debt-financed the buildings.
Make no mistake, this was about the bottom-line of meatpacking corporations. This bill offers nothing to family farmers and ranchers, creates no opportunities. In fact, it does the opposite. It slams the door in the face of farmers and ranchers, especially young farmers trying to get started in livestock production. Instead it offers them the chance to become virtual serfs to meatpacking companies.
Arguments by proponents that the bill was needed for reasons of constitutionality and to address declines in hog production in Nebraska were both completely unfounded. Hog inventories have been on the increase, according to USDA’s quarterly Hogs and Pigs report. An Attorney General’s formal opinion on LB 176 and the state’s ban on packer ownership stated that the bill does not resolve any constitutional questions. Nor does current law regarding packer ownership of livestock “discriminate against nor unduly burden interstate commerce.”
We applaud the efforts of a core group of senators who stood in opposition to the meatpacking corporations. Senator Davis, Senator Bloomfield, Senator Schnoor, Senator Sullivan, Senator Groene, Senator Haar, and Senator Chambers - these senators had the courage to stand up for farmers, ranchers, and small-town Nebraska. They were heroic in their efforts. Senator Davis, in particular, was a true champion for rural Nebraska and the family farms and ranches that are the backbone of our rural economy.
This legislation is not about helping family farmers, it is not about jobs, nor rebuilding communities. If consolidation and vertical integration created jobs and healthy communities, rural Nebraska would be a paradise today. But in truth, this bill will result in fewer farmers, declining rural population and shrinking small-town economic opportunities.
We believe in a bright future for rural Nebraska, with vibrant small towns surrounded by thriving family farms and ranches. But advancing the cynical vision of LB 176 will only serve to make achieving that future much more difficult.
Tell me, in a world where packers own all the livestock, what place is there for farmers and ranchers?
You can see the vote here or in the pdf file attachment below.
Feature image photo by Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
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