Congress Blatantly Misled by Meat and Poultry Promotion Coalition

WASHINGTON – R-CALF USA is urging Congress to not be misled by a letter from the “Meat and Poultry Promotion Coalition” that purports to represent the interests of “a vast majority of the livestock, poultry and meat producers in the U.S.”
calendar icon 25 May 2007
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“The coalition letter is a blatant attempt to mislead Congress, as the letter’s signatories, specifically Tyson Foods, Cargill, Swift & Co., and National Beef are the four largest U.S. meatpackers that now control over 80 percent of the steer and heifer slaughter in the United States,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “The American Meat Institute and the National Meat Association – also signatories – are the packers’ trade associations. These entities are not producers. They are packers and processors and do not represent the interests of livestock farmers and ranchers that HR 2135 seeks to protect.”

The letter urges the House Agriculture Committee on Livestock Dairy and Poultry to vote down HR 2135, a bipartisan bill that would establish an Office of Special Counsel in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to investigate and prosecute violations on competition matters and update the 80-year old Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) to reflect today’s market conditions. Specifically, this bill would prohibit unfair and deceptive practices; require regulations to define “unreasonable preference or advantage;” and clarify that producers need not also prove anti-competitive injury in cases involving unfair or deceptive practices.

“Not a single one of these entities (that signed the letter) represents any of R-CALF USA’s 15,000 members,” Bullard continued. “In fact, these entities’ economic interests are in direct competition with the economic interests of U.S. farmers and ranchers. U.S. cattle producers and these packers and processors compete against each other to maximize their respective profits, minimize their respective risks and enhance their respective competitiveness.”

R-CALF USA Mississippi Membership Chair Stanley Scott said he strongly objects to the content of the coalition’s letter because it is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. Scott is a fourth generation cattle producer, a livestock market operator and a member of the Mississippi Beef Council.

“Their statement ‘to preserve the profitability of U.S. livestock and meat producers’ warrants questioning because I can assure you the goal of these coalition members is to make a profit and increase shareholder wealth,” Scott said. “I contend that common sense shows these corporations’ welfare and the welfare of producers are diametrically opposed, and I am insulted and astounded that any of those among this coalition would dare to claim to speak for U.S. cattle producers.”

Scott called the following portion of the coalition letter amazing doublespeak: “We want to ensure that consumer demand continues to drive business decisions between producers and processors.”

“Are there no critical thinkers left in Washington,” Scott asked. “The very intent of their letter is to avoid fair competition and true price discovery and keep in place their current practices, such as forward contracts with no base, and captive supplies, which help them accomplish their tyranny over U.S. producers. One only has to look at the members of this coalition to see they are large corporations and not producers at all.”

“We now have in writing actual proof that these multinational monopolies are decidedly trying to confuse the general public and trick the public into believing they represent the hard-working farmers and ranchers across the USA,” Bullard commented. “We trust Congress will recognize this is a ploy and also will recognize the tremendous disparity in market power between the highly concentrated meatpackers and processors and the grassroots individuals who indeed produce cattle.

“HR 2135 is an essential measure to level the economic playing field between producers and packers and processors,” he concluded. “Congress’ support of HR 2135, HR 2213 (Captive Supply Reform Act) and a ban on packer ownership is needed to ensure there will be robust competition in U.S. livestock markets.”

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