USDA/DOJ Workshop on Competition in Livestock Draws National Crowd

National Farmers Union Press Release: Contact: 202-554-1600 (Also see the USDA Press Release on this event) WASHINGTON (Aug. 27, 2010) – Amid much anticipation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) held a joint workshop focused on competition in the livestock industry in Fort Collins, Colo., today. The workshop had 1300 individuals registered, including Farmers Union members and staff from at least 12 states. “A lot of attention has been drawn to this workshop based on the recent disputes on the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) proposed rule,” said National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson. “NFU is pleased to have two members on the speaker panel representing U.S. family farmers and ranchers, who are in favor of the proposed rule. It is vital to have speakers from groups that represent the family farmer, not just the packer-producer organizations.” Chris Peterson, Iowa Farmers Union president, and Armando Valdez, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union member, both livestock producers, spoke at the workshop. Peterson and Valdez each highlighted the need for reform in the livestock industry, with an emphasis on the increasing consolidation and vertical integration in the livestock and poultry marketplace, resulting in a tougher environment for independent producers.

“GIPSA has put forth the revisions as called for by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill,” said Johnson. “The rules reinforce the existing Packers and Stockyards Act and amount to a Farmer and Rancher Bill of Rights.”

While the GIPSA proposed rule was a major point of contention, the focus of the workshop was on overall concentration in the livestock marketplace. Four companies control more than 81 percent of the total beef processing in the United States, allowing for non-competitive pricing to be forced upon producers.

The realignment of the livestock industry has been damaging to farmers, ranchers and growers. In 1980, there were more than 666,000 hog farms and 1.6 million cattle farms or ranches. Today, there are only about 71,000 hog farms and 950,000 cattle farms or ranches. In 1980, hog producers received half of the retail value of a hog but in 2009, they got less than one-quarter of the value. Similarly, in 1980, cattle producers received 62 percent of the retail value but in 2009 received only 42.5 percent.

“U.S. family famers and ranchers must be allowed the right to access a fair marketplace,” said Johnson. “NFU has been working for decades to ensure that the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 protects farmers, ranchers and growers as was intended by Congress. I hope the USDA and DOJ will take the information gathered at this workshop in order to protect producers and the future of agriculture in the United States.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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