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Meat Packer Bill Reintroduced

South Dakota Public Broadcasting

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is sponsoring legislation to ban meat packer ownership of livestock.   The move aims to end what some call a monopoly in the meat industry. Critics say meat packers that also own livestock control too much of the market and hurt smaller family farms and ranches.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley proposes amending the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.  The National Farmers Union is in favor of the move. Officials say the bill champions family farms and ranches. Matt Sibley is the Legislative Specialist for the South Dakota Farmers Union. He says the Farmers Union has supported this legislation from the beginning.

“Anytime that there’s consolidation, especially when there are so few packers, what you have is a lack of competition. And it allows those packers to manipulate those markets. And that’s not good for our producers; that’s not good for our livestock owners. So that’s really what this is going to do,” says Sibley.

However, some think the bill isn’t all good. Scott Vanderwal is the President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. He says the relationship between producers and packers is a little more complicated. He says the Farm Bureau’s policy on the issue is mixed.

“First of all, our policy refers to the fact that our members believe that beef packers who process more than a 1,000 head per day should be monitored so they can’t manipulate the market. But then on the other hand, our policy strongly supports the freedom to enter into any contracts or any marketing arrangements that they think would serve their best interests. So the packer ban would basically interfere with that and that concerns us a lot,” says Vanderwal.

Vanderwal says similar legislation has come up numerous times in the last decade. The bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate and is currently in committee.