July 16, 2002 -- At todays Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on issues related to concentration in the livestock industry, the Campaign for Family Farms renewed its call for the Senate to immediately pass legislation that would ban corporate meatpackers from owning livestock. Minnesota hog farmer and Land Stewardship Project member Nolan Jungclaus, who participated in the CFFs campaign to pass the packer ban during the 2001-2002 farm bill debate, testified at the Senate Ag Committee hearing.
"I have witnessed ever-increasing vertical integration in the livestock industry. A concentration of economic power and wealth spearheaded by packers who own and feed their own livestock," Jungclaus told the Senate Agriculture Committee. "This shift in the economic balance from the rural sector to the corporate headquarters of the very large and monopolized packing industry is sucking the lifeblood out of our rural communities."
Meatpacking corporations have become massive livestock producers in recent years, filling their packing plants with hogs that they own. In 1996 six major meatpackers owned 442,000 sows. In 2001 the same six meatpackers owned 1.2 million sows. Since 1987 the hog farmers share of the retail dollar has plummeted from 46 cents today. At the same time, consumer prices have increased by more than 40% at the grocery store. The share of the pork dollar taken up by the packer and retailer has increased from 54 cents to 70 cents.
"Its clear who has benefited from this corporate control of the hog industry. Its the packer and the retailer, not the farmer or the consumer," said hog and cattle producer Rhonda Perry, Program Director for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and a spokesperson for the CFF. "Banning corporate meatpacker ownership of livestock remains the single most important thing Congress can do this year to support fair and competitive markets in agriculture. Members of Congress who oppose the packer ban are standing against independent producers and family farms and favor corporate control of agriculture."
Earlier this year, the Senate voted to include the packer ban in their version of the Federal Farm Bill on two separate occasions. However, the leaders of the House of Representatives were successful in their efforts to remove the packer ban from the farm bill during the Conference Committee negotiations.
"The packer ban passed the Senate earlier this year, not once but twice, because thousands of family farmers across the country pounded the Senate with phone calls, letters and e-mails, urging them to ban meatpackers from owning livestock, said Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member and Campaign for Family Farms spokesperson Larry Ginter. This hearing demonstrates that the Senate Agriculture Committee understands that this is one of the most important issues in rural America. The Senate should listen to the farmers at this hearing and take action to ban packer ownership of livestock by the end of this year."
"Now is not the time for a study - it is time to take action and pass the packer ban," added Jungclaus. "In rural America we know a study for what it is - a corporate-generated stall tactic that will do nothing while the packers take the rest of the hog industry and a bigger chunk of the beef industry until there is nothing left for the American farmer except raising the owner's livestock for them on contract."
The Campaign for Family Farms (CFF) is a coalition of farm and rural groups that are leading the fight against the corporate takeover of the hog industry and working for policies that support independent family farmers. CFF member groups include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Land Stewardship Project, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, and Illinois Stewardship Alliance.
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|Published in In Motion Magazine, July 16, 2002
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