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NFU President testifies on concentration

WASHINGTON, D.C.–National Farmers Union (NFU) President Leland Swenson urged the U.S. Senate to act on legislation to increase competition in the agriculture industry. In his testimony to the Senate Agriculture Committee, Swenson expressed NFU support for four pending bills that respond to input and processing concentration in agriculture. “Lack of market competition is a top concern of farmers and ranchers,” Swenson told the panel. “The feeling in rural America is that mergers and acquisitions don’t make the industry more efficient for independent family farmers and ranchers – just more dependant upon fewer buyers of their production and fewer suppliers of their inputs.”

Swenson testified in support of legislation—introduced by Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the “Farmers and Ranchers Fair Competition Act of 2000”— which prohibits anti-competitive practices; establishes a claims commission to compensate those injured by violations; provides whistleblower protection; gives USDA the authority to stop mergers; holds violators responsible; requires public disclosure of production and marketing contracts, strategic alliances, interlocking boards and ownership of related agri-businesses; and provides for a General Accounting Office study on farm-to-retail price spreads, formula contracts, marketing agreements, forward contracting, biotech patents, concentration in milk processing and multinational mergers.

In addition, Swenson testified in support of a bill, offered by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the “Agriculture Competition enhancement Act,” which establishes a Special Counsel for Competition Matters within the Department of Agriculture, provides for the review of agricultural mergers and acquisitions by the Department of Agriculture, and outlaws unfair practices in the agriculture industry.

“We strongly support both bills and urge the Senate Agriculture Committee to combine the bills and pass the legislation by the Memorial Day recess,” said Swenson.

The NFU President also spoke in favor of legislation introduced by Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., to prohibit packer ownership of livestock and legislation introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Daschle to allow for interstate shipment of state-inspected meat.