Lawmakers introduce legislation to help independent farmers
SPRING VALLEY, Minn. (KTTC) – U.S. lawmakers want to pass legislation to level the playing field for independent beef farmers. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley along with Minnesota Senator Tina Smith and others are presenting the bills to the Senate Ag Committee at a hearing Tuesday.
“It always ends the same. More profit for the packers and independent producers going out of the business. Market reform is needed right now,” Sen. Grassley said.
The first bill would require a certain amount of cattle to be sold through transparent markets. The second would create a new office at the United State’s Department of Agriculture to investigate anti-competitive practices.
“We’re talking about bringing competition to an industry dominated by four packers and a cozy relationship with the big feed lots of four or five states,” Sen. Grassley said.
It’s legislation that has gained bipartisan support throughout the Midwest.
“The essence of a free market is that there’s good information, maybe not perfect information let’s be honest, but good information about what prices are being asked and offered, otherwise you’re just a price taker,” Sen. Smith said.
Farmers in southeast Minnesota say the legislation profits more transparency and power to the farmers.
“Not only will people have greater transparency and see the prices, but the mechanism for price determination will be more fair and equitable rather than backdoor arrangements that are forced on farmers by the only one or two buyers in the market,” Valley Angus Farms owner Dan Miller said.
Knowing legislation isn’t passed overnight, some farmers are taking power out of the processors hands, and into their own. Miller created a website where consumers can buy his beef directly from the farm, skipping the processor step.
“So, if we can go right to the consumer, and with our farmer, people can shop online and buy directly. You can pick per pound of steak, beef, roast or quarters, eighths, halves and whole animals and you can select whatever may fit you needs there,” Miller said.
By producing, processing and selling his own beef, Miller is able to directly work with the consumer and form a local connection.
“We’re happy to do it. We like to work directly with consumers. That interaction is positive,” Miller said.
But despite the challenges, several farmers are hopeful for an equitable future.
“My aspiration is in the future, we can perhaps have a greater diversity of processors of beef, so there will be more competition and a little more market power to the farmer,” Miller said.
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