Friday, February 20, 2015

Nebraska moves to allow livestock contracting

Nebraska politicians are engaged in a spirited debate over a proposal to lift the ban on meat packers owning hogs and cattle via contracts.

For 16 years Nebraska has had a law prohibiting packers from owning, controlling or feeding livestock for more than five days prioer to slaughter.

 “Nebraska needs to take a close look at the future as we lag behind” competitors, such as Iowa, that allow packers to contract hog production, argues Senator Ken Schilz.

But Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF U.S.A., is staunchly opposed, warning it will lead to the “chickenization” of the hog and cattle industries.

“[M]eatpackers are now attempting to apply the industrialized poultry model to our livestock industries.

Bullard and R-CALF are reviled by Canadian cattlemen for harassing Canadian cattle and beef exports to the United States. It took years and millions of dollars to fight the protectionist regulations R-CALF promoted.

Bullard says “meatpackers are shifting larger and larger volumes of livestock from the negotiated cash market — the price discovery market — to alternative procurement programs such as packer ownership and control.

“As a result, the price discovery markets for hogs and cattle are becoming too thin to accurately predict a competitive price,” he wrote in a letter to the politicians who recently debated the bill for four hours.

It has not yet gained approval.