The push to ban packers from owning livestock just won’t go away. However, the effort did receive a setback at this year’s American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Tampa, Fla. Delegates voted to pull the federation’s support for any national legislative efforts that would prevent packers from owning or funding livestock production.

After much debate, the vote was 207 to end support of a ban versus 185 to continue its support. Oklahoma delegates presented an option to continue supporting a ban involving beef packers and production, but it was defeated.

The delegates did say that the USDA and U.S. Department of Justice should “closely investigate all mergers, ownership changes or other trends in the meat-packing industry for actions that limit the availability of a competitive market for livestock producers.” They further instructed the AFBF to create a task force to examine what impact a ban on packer livestock ownership would have on U.S. agriculture.

In other action, the delegates confirmed their support of the country-of-origin labeling provision for meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, contained within the 2002 Farm Bill. The vote was 192 to 185 in support of COOL.

For now, COOL is a voluntary program, it will become mandatory in 2004. The delegates also asked the AFBF board to study the impact of COOL on U.S. livestock producers and related products.

Additionally, the AFAB delegates voted to support efforts to maintain the funding structure for the 2002 Farm Bill, saying that the farm policy should not be reopened.

Finally, of significance, the delegates approved a resolution that urges Congress to complete action on financial assistance for farmers and ranchers who suffered crop and livestock losses due to weather disasters in 2001 and 2002.