Mean What You Say

In a world where packers own all the hogs and cattle, what need is there for farmers and ranchers? That question haunts me as the farm bill debate progresses.

Meat packers claim that vertical integration increases efficiency. That is a lie. Small and mid-sized farms and ranches have demonstrated, time and again, that they can match or beat the cost of production in the packers’ industrial facilities.

Packers use vertical integration and captive supplies to manipulate livestock markets, depressing cattle and hog prices across the board by killing their own when prices are high and turning to independent producers as residual suppliers when prices are low.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have said they will fight for family farmers and ranchers and have proved as good as their word by offering legislation to increase competitiveness in livestock markets and ban packers from owning livestock. A mere handful of Senators have joined them in co-sponsoring these bills, but not one from Nebraska. In the absence of Initiative 300, which prohibits packer ownership of livestock, Nebraska family farmers and ranchers need these provisions in the farm bill more than ever.

My father always told me, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” If Senators and Representatives want to say they stand up for family farmers and ranchers, then they should support a federal ban on packer ownership of livestock and a comprehensive competition title in the farm bill… in other words, they should mean what they say.

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Contact John Crabtree, or 402.687.2103 x 1010 or Elisha Smith, or 402.687.2103 x 1007 for more information.

The Center for Rural Affairs is a private nonprofit specializing in strengthening small businesses, rural communities, and family farms and ranches.

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