February 1, 2016
Corporate Farming Bill Threatens Nebraska’s Family Farms
The Organization for Competitive Markets is calling on farmers, ranchers and consumers across Nebraska to strongly oppose a bill in the state legislature that would reduce competition in the marketplace by allowing packer ownership of hogs. Nebraska is the only state that still prohibits packers from owning hogs more than five days prior to slaughter.
“We can’t let this happen in Nebraska,” said OCM President Mike Callicrate, who raises livestock in Northwest Kansas. “There’s a reason Nebraska is the nation’s leading red meat producing and processing state, with more independent family farmers, ranchers, and feedlot owners per capita than any other state in the nation. Nebraska’s success is directly tied to the fact that the Competitive Livestock Markets Act is in force, providing a shining example of what can be done to protect a vibrant agricultural economy. When independent livestock owners and operators are treated fairly in the marketplace, commerce thrives and rural communities prosper.”
Legislative Bill 176 would amend Nebraska’s Competitive Livestock Market Act to allow for corporate ownership of hogs. It was introduced by State Senator Ken Schilz, who continues to lead the charge to kill the state’s ban on packer ownership of livestock. The Nebraska legislature could vote on the bill as early as this week.
“Allowing corporate ownership of hogs in Nebraska is an affront to the work of state senators like Cap Dierks who rescued Nebraska’s livestock producers from crashing markets in 1999 by standing up for competitive markets. Senator Schilz’s bill would reverse their important work and signal the final death knell for independent livestock producers,” Callicrate said. “We’ve already seen what contract farming and captive supplies have done to the poultry industry, and beef is not far behind, as last year’s huge and unprecedented loss of equity from the cattle business shows. Surely by now the track record is clear on how corporate packers pillage the environment while impoverishing farmers, abusing animals and exploiting workers and rural communities for their own gain.”
Of particular concern to OCM is that Smithfield Foods, the major force and financing behind the bill, is the largest pork processor in the world, and is now Chinese owned. Similarly, the largest beef and poultry processor, JBS, is owned by Brazil, all of which points to the gradual takeover of American agriculture by foreign countries.
“China has already robbed the U.S. of its productive capacity by undercutting U.S. manufacturers through unfair trade practices, including artificial devaluation of currency and virtual slave labor practices that make their exports cheaper than U.S. produced goods. This is just one more step along a path where China exploits America’s political posture of doing nothing while the trade deficit soars,” Callicrate said. “Why isn’t Senator Schilz looking out for Nebraskans instead of facilitating a Chinese-owned corporation in plundering the resources of Nebraska, leaving only the waste behind?”
Mike Weaver, an OCM board member, poultry grower and beef cattle producer from West Virginia who is also president of Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias, implores Nebraska’s senators to vote against LB176 in its entirety.
Weaver writes in a letter to Senators, “I am sure this change in your state law will eventually lead to more consolidation in beef and pork production and force out the independent farmers and ranchers who are the backbone of your state and, indeed, of this great country.”
“Having been in poultry production for almost 15 years, I have seen continuous consolidation of production which equates to squeezing farmers more and more every day,” he continues. “The best example I can give you is the fact that chicken growers — not just in our area, but nationwide — have not seen an increase in base pay for almost twenty years! At the same time, inflation has increased our expenses by 300 to 400 percent.”
OCM is asking all citizens in Nebraska to hold their legislators accountable for this bill’s consequences. Let them know that a vote for this bill is a vote to kill competitive markets while placing foreign interests above the best interests of Nebraska and the nation.