On Friday, Aug. 27, USDA and the Justice Department conducted an historic workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado on competition and antitrust in livestock markets
Two issues confronting family farming and ranching throughout rural America, especially in the Midwest, Great Plains and Intermountain West, should emerge as priorities that day.
USDA should hold their ground and end the volume-based, "sweetheart" deals that packers routinely give to the nation's largest hog and cattle producers. USDA has written a strong rule that will improve enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and challenge the price discrimination against family farmers and ranchers that has driven tens of thousands of them out of the livestock business.
The Justice Department faces an even sterner challenge. The time has come, with regards to mergers in meatpacking, to say enough is enough. With the top four beef packing firms controlling nearly 88 percent of the daily U.S. beef slaughter and the top four pork packers controlling approximately 60 percent of the daily U.S. hog slaughter, additional mergers among these firms, particularly those that raise their own hogs and cattle, should be disallowed.
Standing up to industry and stopping the headlong rush toward concentration and vertical integration in livestock production and packing is a long row to hoe, but crucial to revitalizing family farms and ranches across much of rural America. Attorney General Holder, Secretary Vilsack, if you take up this challenge, family farmers and ranchers and their rural communities will stand with you.
The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 by rural Nebraskans concerned about family farms and rural communities.