The following letter was set to Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson by Center for Rural Affairs' Board Member Jim Knopik. Jim was kind enough to share the letter with us for publication here as well.
I don't know if you remember, but I stopped in and visited with you about a year ago in DC. My wife and daughter along with my brother and sister-in-law and Reverend Roger Verley were also there. The time you spent with us we really appreciated.
That day I covered many concerns I have about farming and agriculture. One of those concerns was the monopolistic control and power that is in the hands of only a few packers. Because they are allowed to own and raise their own livestock along with contracting from farmers and feeders they now have under their thumbs we have no fair marketing system anymore. They have set standards of size and grade for the animals they purchase in order to discount or steal others that do not make the grade.
There are not enough open markets left that allow prices to be fair or determined by supply and demand. Prices are all controlled and manipulated through contracts and packer ownership. I know you don't hear this from those who say they represent us and receive check off dollars. Another battle we democratically won but politically lost...another story.
My son and I have to drive over 50 miles now to sell hogs at an auction barn in Columbus and 80 miles to sell fat cattle in Norfolk. We are lucky if there are two packer buyers present. Why? Packer ownership. Their shackles are filled with their own or contracted animals.
This is wrong and I ask that you work on a farm bill that has the moral responsibility of re-leveling the playing field in the marketplace. When fair competition is in the marketplace many problems we now face in rural Nebraska, nation wide and even in the world have a chance to go away. Without competition in the marketplace our food system and any insurance of feeding the world let alone our own people is in great jeopardy.
I feel that this farm bill is one of our last opportunity to change what federal policy has destroyed in the last 60 years at the federal level.
Belgrade, NE 68623