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Sparked by an outrage in job loss due to more consolidation in the meat packing sector, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley is taking aim at anti-trust enforcement in one of agriculture’s biggest industries.
For reference, it was announced earlier this year that Tyson Foods would be closing a couple of its poultry processing facilities in Missouri. Concerns were apparently loud enough for Hawley to step in and use his position to bring attention to this issue. According to a press release from Hawley’s office, last week.
“U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced the Strengthening Antitrust Enforcement for Meatpacking Act to empower antitrust enforcers to break up giant meatpacking and poultry monopolies and place power back in the hands of Missouri’s farmers and workers. The introduction of Senator Hawley’s legislation comes after Tyson Foods announced it will be closing the doors of its poultry plants in southern Missouri, costing the state more than 2,000 jobs.
“Today’s meatpacking monopolists are making massive profits while shutting down competition,” said Senator Hawley. “Congress must give antitrust prosecutors the power to end anti-competitive behavior without lengthy court battles. It’s time to hold monopolies accountable and empower farmers.”
The Strengthening Antitrust Enforcement for Meatpacking Act would:
• Amend the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 to establish specific thresholds for market concentration, allowing federal antitrust authorities to more effectively prohibit or unwind acquisitions that concentrate the meatpacking sector.
• Deter further meatpacking concentration by disincentivizing entrenched meatpacking interests from buying up more competitors.
• Put more power back in the hands of farmers and workers.”
Missouri is not the only state where Tyson closures have farmers squawking. Earlier this year Reuters reported that plant closures in Virginia had farmers scrambling to decide their futures.
“Tyson spokesperson Alicia Buffer confirmed farmers received notice of the May 12 closing, and said Tyson intends to stop supplying them with chicks after March 28.She said that instead of canceling their contracts, Tyson is offering farmers a voluntary buyout package, or the option to retain them and be paid through their duration.
The three farmers interviewed by Reuters have between three and 10 years left on their contracts.
Farmers told Reuters they felt pressure to accept the buyout option because they were not sure how the contract could remain in force after the plant is shut and the chicks stop coming.
Roger Reynolds, a farmer in Crewe, Virginia, said retaining his July 2012 contract with Tyson is not a viable option, in part because it would prevent him from selling to another poultry company if one entered the region.
Another farmer with a contract to supply the plant, who asked not to be named, said they may eventually have to sell their third-generation farm as the buyout offer would not cover long-term expenses like property taxes.”
And this is how big Ag, if left unchecked, will continue to hollow our rural America. A true David vs Goliathe story.
Tune in next week as I bring you more ag news from our nation’s capital!
Karina ranches with her husband, Marty, and 4 children near Broken Bow, NE. She grew up in western NE, with roots also in southwest SD. The cattle industry and raising kids is her passion.
Tune in Fridays on The Hot Barn Report, where she deep dives into cattle industry issues and highlights industry reforms or listen to Ranch Raised with Karina Jones a slice of daily life on the Jones Ranch.