Two bills will be heard in front of the Nebraska legislature’s Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 10. These bills would pave the way for meatpacker ownership of livestock and allow continued corporate takeover of agriculture in Nebraska by allowing Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) to avoid the normal restrictions of the county planning and zoning process in Livestock Friendly counties.
The first bill, LB176, was introduced by Sen. Ken Schilz (district 47) and is very similar to a bill he introduced last year, LB492, which was met with great opposition from family farmers and ranchers and was not passed. LB942 was an outright repeal of Nebraska’s ban on packer ownership of hogs in Nebraska. LB176 is not as sweeping in that it is not a full repeal of the ban, but the effect will be the same. The bill would allow pork meatpackers to own hogs as long as they had production contracts with hog producers. The reason this would have the same effect as a repeal of the ban on packer ownership is that meat processors are no longer building and operating hog CAFO’s. They now use contract production to achieve the same two benefits that ownership provides: control, and primary economic benefits, while passing the risks and responsibilities associated with production along to the producer. LB176 would in effect make the hog industry in Nebraska like the chicken industry, and would open the door to allowing meatpackers to own cattle, which would be disastrous for Nebraska’s independent family cattle ranchers. What is further troubling about this is the fact that Smithfield, the largest pork packer in the world, is now owned by the Chinese company Shanghui International. There is a constitutional ban on the foreign corporate ownership of farmland. Why would we allow foreign corporations to own livestock?
The second bill, LB175 (also by Sen. Schilz), helps Livestock Friendly counties recruit and enable CAFO’s and other large industrial ag operations by undermining local planning and zoning authority. It creates a loan program to help counties implement the Livestock Friendly program using money paid into the Commercial Feed Administration Cash Fund. We do not support the use of this money, which is paid by Nebraska’s feed producers, including pet food manufacturers, to further the interests of corporate agriculture operations, which extract economic benefits from our rural communities and do nothing to build the strength of our small towns.
A hearing for theses bills is scheduled for Tuesday, February 10, 2015 1:30 in Room 1524 of the State Capitol. The bill will be heard in front of the Agriculture Committee, with Sen. Jerry Johnson as chairman.
We have heard that there will be an implementation of rules of testimony: For both LB 175 and LB 176, Senator Johnson will limit the introducer to 5 minutes to open on the bill and prepared testimony to 3 minutes. He will also allot 1 hour each to proponent and opponent testimony, including both prepared statements and response to questions. The hour will not include the introducer’s opening on the bills.
We highly recommend providing written testimony that covers all of your points, and then using your 3 minutes to summarize those points or focus on one or two of them. This will be the most effective use of time.
Here is a link to some tips for testifying in front of a committee in the unicameral: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/about/testifying.php
Here is a link to the hearing transcript for LB942, which provides an excellent background and illustrates the two sides of the argument: http://www.legislature.ne.gov/FloorDocs/103/PDF/Transcripts/Agriculture/2014-02-18.pdf
If you can’t make it to the hearing, please email your comments to Sen. Johnson (cc the other members of the Ag committee) before the hearing on Tuesday, so acknowledgment of your comments will be read into the public record.
If you want to watch the hearing, go to this link: http://www.netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/government/legislative-hearing-agriculture-room-1524-0
Whether you can come to the hearing or not, please contact the members of the Agriculture Committee and let them know that you expect them to stand up for family farmers and ranchers by voting against LB175 and LB176: