Ban on packer ownership included in Farm Bill

Ban On Packer Ownership Included In Farm Bill
Grassley amendment to ban packer ownership of livestock included in Farm Bill

A longstanding priority of Senator Chuck Grassley’s has passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and was included in the farm bill that will now be debated by the full Senate. Grassley’s amendment makes it unlawful for a packer to own or feed livestock intended for slaughter.

The Packer Ban excludes single pack entities and packers that are too small to participate in the Mandatory Price Reporting program. The bill also exempts farmer cooperatives where the members own, feed, or control the livestock themselves.

“Outlawing packer ownership of livestock would make sure the forces of the marketplace would work for the benefit of the farmer just as much as it does for the slaughterhouse. You could even say that packer ownership of livestock frustrates and compromises the marketplace so the farmer doesn’t get a fair price,” Grassley said.

In Grassley’s opening statement before the Committee yesterday, he referenced a conversation with the CEO of a major slaughter house. Grassley said the CEO told him: “You wonder why we own livestock? Well, we own livestock so that when prices are high we kill our own and when prices are low we buy from the farmer.”

Another amendment included in the bill clarifies a new potentially burdensome federal regulation that lists propane as a “chemical of interest” requiring costly reporting for farmers and rural homeowners. Grassley first brought this to the attention of Homeland Security officials in June.

The rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security lists propane as a “chemical of interest” when kept in quantities greater than 7,500 pounds. Any individual or business that keeps quantities equal to or greater than 7,500 pounds would be required to complete an online survey risk assessment. The Department estimates that the cost incurred by farmers and small businesses to complete the survey would be between $2,300 to $3,500. Once the survey is completed, the Department would then make a determination whether or not the survey participant is “high risk” and thus subject to the more stringent standards imposed by the regulations.

Grassley’s amendment will restrict the Department of Homeland Security rules from being applied to a rural area as defined by the Federal Housing Act which would exempt any propane tank that is located in an area that has less than 25,000 people.

“Propane tanks are used by virtually every farm across the country and by many small businesses in rural areas that are not supplied by natural gas. A potential burden of thousands of dollars upon individual farmers and small businesses as a preliminary step to determine whether or not they are ‘high risk’ and subject to the stringent requirements of the regulations would be an unduly burdensome financial expenditure,” Grassley said.

Grassley also reiterated today the need to help black farmers who were denied entry into the Pigford v. Glickman settlement, which ended a discrimination lawsuit between African American farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Grassley also plans to push forward on the Senate floor with his amendment to place a hard cap of $250,000 on farm payments.

“I’m looking forward to the debate in the full Senate so we can get a farm bill passed and producers can put their own plans in place for their farming operations,” Grassley said.