Of Beef, Bailouts and Boondoggles

For the last few weeks we have witnessed chaos in the banking and financial services sector, and the chaos of Congress trying to craft a $700 billion bailout in response. If we have gained anything, I hope it is a broad acceptance of the knowledge that bigness is not always, or even usually, better.
Nowhere is this truer than in the American meatpacking industry. JBS, the Brazilian packing conglomerate, continues to press for approval of their proposed acquisitions of National Beef Company and the Smithfield Beef Group announced during the first week of March 2008.
I am opposed to these mergers because they would give the largest U.S. meatpacker (JBS) control over 32% of the national beef slaughter (with 73% controlled by JBS, Cargill and Tyson combined). I am opposed to meatpackers owning cattle (or hogs) for more than a week prior to slaughter, and the Smithfield Beef Group acquisition would give them the capacity to own and feed 800,000 head of cattle.
The JBS mergers provide the perfect opportunity to begin addressing the most fundamental concerns in the meatpacking industry before the problems become too big to deal with. The Justice Department should say no to these mergers.
Seven months have passed since the JBS mergers were announced, and Justice continues to investigate, which is good. But they need to hear about all this from as many people as possible. You can share your opinion at http://www.cfra.org/JBS and let Justice know that rural Americans prefer competitive markets to boondoggles and bailouts.

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