immediate release --March 17, 1999.
Contact Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699
Attorneys General Urge Congress to Protect Farmers
and Consumers by Requiring Full Reporting
of Livestock Prices and Contracts
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and 20 other State Attorneys General
are asking Congress to require meat packers to report crucial price information
to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, who in turn would publicly report
the information the next day, without identifying the specific packers
or disclosing other proprietary business information.
The attorneys general
also proposed that Congress require packers to submit a copy of all contracts
to the Secretary who would make them available publicly as well in a manner
that preserved confidentiality.
In a letter delivered
Tuesday to Congressional leaders and heads of the Congressional agriculture
committees, the State Attorneys General said, "We strongly urge you
to enact legislation that would bring transparency, fairness, and competitiveness
to the livestock industry."
Miller said: "This
is a matter of fairness for both producers and consumers. We point out
that there is an extraordinary level of concentration in livestock slaughter
and retailing, and that brings a serious potential for anti-competitive
practices that leave producers with low prices and consumers with high
The letter from the
Attorneys General noted that suspicions were only heightened by the recent
crisis in the pork industry. "Pries paid to hog producers reached
historic lows in December 1998, but consumers did not see a corresponding
price reduction for pork in the grocery store," they wrote. "In
fact, the farm-to-retail price spread for pork rose to record levels during
the period. At the same time, packers posted record profits for the fourth
quarter of 1998."
Miller said, "It
is more important than ever to have open and fair markets with a depressed
farm economy and low livestock prices. Producers need accurate and ample
market information in order to get a fair shake. We need much more transparency
in the marketplace."
The Attorneys General
also called for whistle-blower protection so that producers could report
allegations of wrongful acts by meat packers without risk of packer reprisal,
especially since many producers rely on only one or two packers for bids.
The letter said Congress should strengthen the Packers & Stockyards
Act so packers could not retaliate against livestock producers.
The letter, which
was circulated by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, also was signed by
the Attorneys General of CT, ID, IL, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, ND, OH, OK,
PA, SD, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, and WY.
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