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Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) has called upon the Agriculture Committees of both houses of Congress to look closely at the proposed purchase of two major beef packing plants and a major cattle feeder operation by industry giant JBS-Swift. “Congress has been a strong voice against the consolidation of meat packers and their direct ownership of cattle fed for slaughter,” said RMFU President Kent Peppler. “Now we need them to walk the walk. By grabbing up Five Rivers Ranch Cattle Feeding as well, JBS-Swift will control nearly a million head of cattle being fed for slaughter. When the meat packer owns the feed lot, the small cattle producer cannot compete and the industrial cattle barons can set whatever prices suit them. It’s time for the government’s anti-trust laws to show some teeth.”
Letters to leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees asked for immediate hearings to keep the merger issues in the public eye and to see that the Department of Justice does its job. Peppler offered the committees any assistance they might need in gathering testimony. “For some of our members, Swift and Five Rivers are ‘just down the street.’ and we have been in this anti-trust battle for five generations,” Peppler said. “Monopolies smother competition, and our congressional leaders know that competition on a fair playing field is a mainstay of the American way of life.”
Peppler also asked U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasay to launch an anti-trust investigation of the proposed purchase, as required by law. “A real in-depth investigation and not another rubber stamp of a proposed merger or acquisition. The corporate cattle barons are crushing independent beef producers and driving up consumer beef prices. JBS-Swift and Smithfield are tied for fifth largest meat packer, and National Beef is the fourth largest. This purchase will make them all one company. Meat packing is already almost a monopoly, with four firms controlling most of the beef produced in America. The proposed purchase would result in three companies controlling nearly 85 percent. This is not in the best interests of consumers or family farmers and ranchers. The monopolists tell us consolidation means lower costs,” Peppler said. “What they don’t mention is that lower costs don’t mean lower prices for the American consumer, they mean bigger profits in the hands of the wealthy owners.”
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