A small handful of corporations dominate the nation’s food supply. The market control of the top four firms in food retailing, red meat, grain, poultry and milk processing is at a historic high.
Four meat packers now slaughter four of every five of the fat cattle in the United States. This unprecedented level of market consolidation effectively eliminates free market competition to the detriment of independent family farmers and consumers.
The public policies shaping the U.S. farm and food system are failing the family farmers and ranchers who produce our food. Farmers and ranchers have lost income and independence. Too many have lost their farms and ranches to a system favoring multi-national corporations.
Fair and open livestock markets enable farmers and ranchers, feeders and auction yard owners to keep their independence, run their businesses, provide for their families, and build their rural communities.
WORC backs probe of lamb prices
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will investigate complaints of unfair lamb prices. The decision follows a bipartisan Congressional request to look into the differences between the prices sheep producers receive and the prices consumers pay for lamb. Live lamb prices have dropped by half over the last year.
WORC joined with R-CALF, National Farmers Union and other organizations in a letter of support for the investigation requested in October by Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Senators John Thune (R-SD), Max Baucus (D-MT), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and John Barrasso (R-WY).
Butler seeks apology
In a phone interview with WORC, Dudley Butler, former administer of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, has called on Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) to apologize for the Senator's comments about what Butler supposedly had said about the proposed GIPSA rule.
WORC members are stepping up to return competition to the livestock markets and economic viability to family farmers and ranchers and their rural communities.
WORC seeks livestock market reform
WORC delivered a request August 27, 2010 to USDA and the Justice Department for rules to require competitive and transparent pricing of meatpackers’ captive supplies of livestock during the competition workshop in Fort Collins.
Ranchers rally at public forum on livestock markets
On August 26, 2010, ranchers and farmers, meatpacking workers, consumers, and local food and food justice advocates gathered for a public forum, sponsored by WORC, R-CALF, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and Food & Water Watch.
The forum looked at how corporate consolidation has led to an imbalance of power in the food system, with unfair practices putting farmers and ranchers, workers, and consumers at a disadvantage, and why government action, like the proposed GIPSA rule, is overdue.
- Gilles Stockton, WORC
- Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF
- John Stencel, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
- Mark Lauritsen, United Food and Commercial Workers
- Patty Lovera, Food & Water Watch
- Gailmarie Kimmel, moderator with Be Local Northern Colorado
- Rhonda Perry, Missouri Rural Crisis Center
The livestock market is broken. Big meat packers are taking advantage of honest, hardworking family farmers and ranchers by manipulating the price they pay for livestock.
Fair and open livestock markets enable farmers and rancher, auction yard owners and feeders to keep their independence, run their businesses, provide for their families and build their rural communities.
Captive supply reform would restore competition because packers would bid against each other to win contracts in an open, public way.
- More on Captive Supply.
Mandatory country-of-origin labeling became a reality on September 30, 2008. After waiting for implementation of the law passed in 2002, consumers are able to know the origin of the beef, lamb, pork, fish, poultry, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and peanuts they buy in grocery stores.
- More on Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling.
Competition for livestock prices is reduced when packers own the livestock they slaughter. The harmful combination of high market concentration and the increased use of captive supplies - livestock owned outright by packers or controlled through contracts with farmers and ranchers - has meant lower prices, a smaller share of the retail dollar and shrinking livestock markets for farmers and ranchers.
- More on prohibition of packer owned livestock
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack ended the controversial National Animal Identification System (NAIS) in February 2010. NAIS was designed to identify and track each and every individual livestock and poultry animal owned by family farm producers or hobby farmers across the country. Put forth as a disease tracking and trace-back security program, NAIS was a fundamentally flawed program that could not deliver real security.
- More on Animal ID
Congress passed the 2008 Farm Bill in June 2008. The issues of competition and concentration in agricultural markets are as important to the health of our agricultural economy as the federal price support and direct assistance programs.
Unfortunately, Congress fell short in addressing the concentration and competition problems of the livestock industry. However, Congress did take some steps forward by adding a Livestock Title to the Farm Bill and setting the state for future work on livestock issues through farm bill policy.
- More on the Livestock Title