DENVER—Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) strongly supports provisions in the U.S. Senate farm bill that would require country-of-origin food labeling and prohibit packer ownership of livestock within 14 days of slaughter.
“These are common-sense provisions aimed at giving producers a small marketing advantage within an industry dominated by just a handful of meat processors,” said RMFU President John Stencel.
Statistics show that just four firms control over 80 percent of all red meat processing in the United States. In some regions, livestock producers have only one buyer for their product. The prohibition of packer ownership of livestock within 14 days of slaughter forces processors to bid for livestock on the open market, rather than slaughtering their own livestock, a practice that is used by processors to depress market prices.
“We agree with the sponsor of the measure, Senator Chuck Grassley, that most farmers believe this provision will strengthen the cash market by reducing the monopolization created by vertical integration in this sector of our economy,” Stencel said.
RMFU is critical of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) for coming out in opposition to mandatory country-of-origin labeling. The organization had earlier chose to neither support, nor oppose it.
“Labeling will benefit not only producers but consumers as well. Studies show that the vast majority of consumers want to know the origin of their food,” Stencel said. “We contend that rank and file producers support both labeling and prohibition of packer ownership. NCBA needs to listen to its producers.”
Opponents of country-of-origin labeling say they have nothing to hide, rather they object to the labeling being mandatory. In a recent letter to President George W. Bush, the Colorado Livestock Association (CLA) wrote: The consumers, through their spending habits, will dictate to the livestock and meat markets whether or not they desire products to be labeled.”
“Consumers have spoken. They want labeling. And, producers want to be able to promote American product,” Stencel said. “The only true opponents of labeling are the processors who know consumers will not be pleased with labels saying a single pound of hamburger is made from beef from ‘various’ countries.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation in its annual meeting, voted to support both the packer prohibition and country-of-origin provisions in the Senate farm bill.