Pigs with Farmers
Photo © Patty O’Brien, used by permission

Blog | February 1, 2016

Why are big meatpackers licking their chops over Nebraska’s LB176?

by Alicia Harvie

For two years, independent farmers in Nebraska have successfully blocked LB176, a bill that would allow international pork processors to own Nebraska hogs. But after a whole lot of money and lobbying, corporate meatpackers have managed to push LB176 forward. Crucial votes will happen this week!

Why are meatpackers like Smithfield (now a Chinese-owned company and the world’s largest pork producer and processor) licking their chops over this bill? Because ownership equals money and control. In fact, the most important force driving the loss of independent hog farmers is consolidation and the growing reach of multinational corporate meatpackers into every stage of hog production. This vertically integrated system allows these huge corporations to control the whole process from piglet to pork chop. “Packer ownership” of hogs represents the final nail in the coffin for independent farmers.

To stop LB176, state senators need to hear from Nebraskans willing to stand up for independent pork producers. Read on to see how you can help!

If you’re wondering who really benefits from LB176, just follow the money. John Hansen, Nebraska Farmers Union President, recently exposed 20 senators who received campaign contributions from Smithfield, including the bill’s sponsor, Senator Ken Schilz last year.

Why are big meatpackers licking their chops over this bill? Because ownership equals money and control.

We don’t need a crystal ball to see what packer ownership will look like. We’ve already seen it in the poultry industry, where full vertical integration has given poultry integrators ownership over chickens, leaving farmers as virtual serfs on the land, trapped in debt, stuck in unfair contracts, and charged with raising the chickens exactly as the company prescribes with no competitive markets in which to sell them. The abuse of farmers in that system is so egregious that it earned a special segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last year.

That’s why Nebraska farmers are fighting so hard to prevent the “chickenization” of the American pork industry.

Nebraska: Act Now to Protect Independent Pork Farmers

State senators are getting pressure from Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods and other industry front-groups to pass LB176. The only thing stronger than their money power is our people power, and that’s where you come in.

Here’s what you can do to support independent pork farmers in Nebraska:

  1. Call your state senators now and tell them to VOTE NO on Cloture and NO on LB176. Here are a few pointers:
    • Locate your State Senator’s contact information here.
    • If you’re a farmer, briefly tell them about your farm and your story and that you believe independent pork farming is something worth fighting for. Ask them to stand up to big meatpackers and vote NO on cloture and NO on LB176.
    • If you’re a concerned citizen, tell them briefly about your community, how independent family farm agriculture is crucial to the economy and culture of your town. Tell them you don’t believe foreign meatpackers should be able to own Nebraska hogs. Tell them to vote NO on cloture and NO on LB176.
  2. Share this post with your friends! Get the word out. Your courage to speak up and speak out will inspire your friends and family to do the same.
  3. Get networked with our friends in Nebraska. If you care about issues like this, connect with the Nebraska Farmers Union and the Center for Rural Affairs to stay active in your state. Finding a community of people who care about Nebraska’s future, the strength of family farm agriculture and the quality of life in your communities is so crucial. Tell them Farm Aid sent you.

An allied group of organizations have come together to prevent packer ownership over hogs. This alliance includes:

  • Nebraska Farmers Union
  • The Center for Rural Affairs
  • Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska
  • Bold Nebraska
  • The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska
  • Nebraska Grange
  • Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE)
  • The Sierra Club
  • Nebraska AFL-CIO

Further Reading

  • The Lincoln Journal Star recently wrote about John Hansen, leader of the Nebraska Farmers Union and his efforts to fight for the future of independent Nebraska hog farmers.
  • This isn’t the first time we’ve covered the efforts of big meatpackers to take control in Nebraska. Revisit last year’s post on this topic to see sobering statistics on the status of hog farmers in Nebraska compared with surrounding states where meatpackers have already won legislation that affords these giant corporations more control.

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