Lawmaker revives proposed ban on packer-owned livestock

by MEAT+POULTRY Staff
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WASHINGTON – Citing continued consolidation within the livestock industry and limited options for independent livestock producers, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced federal legislation that would ban meat packers from owning livestock.

US Sen. Chuck Grassley
Sen. Chuck Grassley

“An effective and efficient marketplace is one where packers that control all harvest capacity of the industry do not also own a majority of the animals to be processed,” Grassley said in a statement. “The fact of the matter is that the market continues to become less competitive. It’s time to see if ending packer ownership of livestock will reverse that trend.”

Exemptions to the ban include:

• an arrangement entered into within seven days (excluding any Saturday or Sunday) before slaughter of the livestock by a packer, a person acting through the packer, or a person that directly or indirectly controls, or is controlled by or under common control with, the packer;

• a cooperative or entity owned by a cooperative, if a majority of the ownership interest in the cooperative is held by active cooperative members that own, feed, or control livestock; and provide the livestock to the cooperative for slaughter;

• a packer that is not subject to mandatory price reporting laws; or

• a packer that owns one livestock processing plant.

Grassley has introduced similar legislation in the past. But just as the lawmaker’s stance on packer-owned livestock hasn’t softened, the same can be said for the North American Meat Institute’s opposition to ban meatpackers’ ability to own livestock.

Barry Carpenter, North American Meat Institute
Barry Carpenter, CEO, NAMI

“We share Senator Grassley’s desire for an ‘effective and efficient marketplace’ and that is exactly what dozens of studies affirm we have,” Barry Carpenter, NAMI president and CEO, said in a statement. “Dismantling our dynamic livestock and meat production and marketing system will only turn the clock back on progress and hurt producers, packers and the consuming public in the process.”

NAMI pointed to a Congressionally-mandated Research Triangle Institute (RTI) Livestock and Meat Marketing Study that analyzed the issue. The report, which was funded by the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), concluded that a ban would raise prices for livestock and would harm producers for a variety of reasons. NAMI said “The report also found the US livestock and meat marketing complex to be dynamic and competitive.”

In February, state lawmakers in Nebraska passed a bill that lifted a long-standing ban on hog ownership by vertically integrated meatpackers.

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