Senators introduce a bill this week banning meatpacker ownership of livestock.
A group of senators introduced a bill this week that would ban most meatpackers from owning or feeding livestock intended for slaughter. Democratic Senator Kent Conrad and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley are the lead co-sponsors of the measure.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R – Iowa: “I proposed the bill banning packers from owning livestock because I want to protect the family farmer. And packers owning livestock is very unfair.”
The bill excludes single pack entities and packers that are too small to participate in the Agriculture Department’s Mandatory Price Reporting program. It also exempts farmer cooperatives where members own, feed or control the livestock themselves.
Grassley said the CEO of a major slaughter house once told a group of farmers, “Packers own livestock so that when prices are high they can butcher their own animals and when prices are low, they can buy from farmers.”
Grassley describes the 2012 farm bill as a great opportunity to deal with vertical integration before it’s too late. He says outlawing packer ownership of livestock makes sure the marketplace works for the farmer just as much as it does for the slaughterhouse.
According to senators backing the bill, farmers and ranchers have long expressed concern that allowing meat packers to own the animals they slaughter reduces competition for livestock raised by independent cattle producers. They say this market manipulation, along with increased concentration, has made it difficult for many independent producers to compete.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R – Iowa: “I think all segments of animal agriculture will be helped by my legislation. It’s going to send a clear signal to packers of the inordinate impact they have on the free market system.”
The Senate passed versions of the Packer Ban legislation in both the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills. However, each time, the provision was removed in conference committees.