Despite heavy lobbying from the meat sector, the Senate passed an amendment to the farm bill to force beef and pork packers to divest themselves of cattle and hog ownership, within six to 18 months respectively.

The amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 51 to 46. Cooperatives are exempt from the divestiture provisions and the amendment applies only to red meat, meaning poultry packers would be allowed to continue their livestock ownership.

Parick Boyle, American Meat Institute President said in a press release, “we are appalled at the lack of knowledge 51 Senators demonstrated…with respect to the economics of the meat and livestock sectors. This bill would force massive ‘fire-sale’ liquidation of hog and cattle assets, further accelerating consolidation. It also disadvantages the beef and pork sectors by making them less competitive than their poultry competitors. It is an unprecedented government intrusion into the business community, and we will fight vigorously to remove this amendment during the farm bill conference.”

This same amendment was defeated in the Senate Agriculture Committee on Nov. 13, 2001 by a vote of 12 to 9. Despite meat industry criticism, the National Farmers Union proclaimed the amendment a victory for family farmers and ranchers.

The farm bill is expected to be debated on the Senate floor most of this week, with other amendments affecting the structure of agribusiness, competition issues, contracts and antitrust considerations possibly introduced.

American Meat Institute