Food & Water Watch: Congress Could Implement Expert Advice to Agriculture Markets

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2008
1:40 PM

CONTACT: Food & Water Watch
Patty Lovera or Erin Greenfield
(202) 683–2457

 
Congress Could Implement Expert Advice to Agriculture Markets
 

WASHINGTON, DC - April 29 - Farm and consumer groups today urged the Farm Bill conference committee to preserve the livestock market and contract reforms in the Livestock Title of the Senate version of the Farm Bill, especially in light of a new expert panel report on the negative impacts of industrial farm animal production. 

The report by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released today touches on one of the issues to be decided very soon by the Farm Bill conference committee, concentrated market power in hands of a few large meatpackers. The Commission’s report “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America,” discusses the impact that industrialized animal production has on the environment, public health, rural communities, and farmers and includes a recommendation that new policies to allow for a competitive marketplace in animal agriculture be explored. 

“We were glad to see that the commission acknowledged the issue of concentration and the negative impact it has on the food system,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “But since antitrust regulations are not working, we need Congress to tackle this issue now.”

The report states “if enforcing existing antitrust laws are not effective in restoring competition, further legislative remedies should be considered…” and identifies possible remedies such as more transparent price reporting and limiting the ability of meat packers to control supply before slaughter. Most of these measures, as well as several others, are currently the subject of negotiation by the Farm Bill conference committee.   

“If JBS is allowed to buy Smithfield Beef and National Beef Packing, the concentration in the beef industry will be even worse that the Commission report suggests,” said Mabel Dobbs of Weiser, Idaho who is chair of the Livestock Committee for the Western Organization of Resource Councils. “We need Congress to include the measures in the Senate’s livestock title including the packer ban to give ranchers a chance to compete.”

The Senate version of the Farm Bill contains measures in the Livestock Title that would prohibit meatpacker–owned livestock, prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts, and end some of the most abusive practices commonly used by meat companies in producer contracts. 

“The poultry industry no longer has the regional processing infrastructure we need for producers to remain independent,” said Becky Ceartas, the program director for the Contract Agriculture Reform Program at RAFI–USA. “Now poultry farmers have to sign a contract that is not favorable to them if they want to raise poultry. That’s why Congress needs to act now and include contract fairness measures in the Farm Bill.” 

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