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More than a Thousand People Assemble in Fort Collins for Competition Workshop

Friday, August 27, 2010

(American Meat Institute)

More than a thousand people assembled in Fort Collins, Colorado, today for a United States Department of Agriculture-Department of Justice workshop to examine competition in the livestock industry.  The workshop is the fourth in a series of competition workshops being held around the country.

AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp is slated to participate in an afternoon panel examining industry structure.  Workshop attendees were given lottery tickets that would be used to select randomly speakers for the public testimony portion of the workshop. 

Livestock producers attended in full force wearing buttons to convey their positions ranging from “Pull the rule” to “Yeah USDA.”

In his opening remarks, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “Producers are worried.  They worry whether there is a future for them and their children in agriculture.” Vilsack went on to detail statistics about a shift away from the spot market. 

“The thinning spot market is a concern because it sets the base marketing price in contracts,” Vilsack said.  “Some have argued that the status quo is better. … Under status quo, there has been a significant exodus from agriculture and a depopulation of rural America.”

Attorney General Eric Holder said one of the purposes of the event is to examine “fairness and equal opportunity.” 

“Too many farmers and ranchers are fighting tooth and nail simply to make a living,” he said. 

 AMI Offers Comments

 As the event got under way, AMI’s Dopp issued a statement detailing the thorough examination that these issues have already had in courts and in economic studies.

“We are confident that the USDA-DOJ workshops will show what dozens of analyses by the government and universities have concluded repeatedly -- that the U.S. meat and poultry industry is dynamic and competitive and that livestock and poultry procurement practices that include marketing agreements and forward contracts are legitimate,” Dopp said.

Dopp specifically expressed concerns about a new proposal from the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) that will strongly discourage the use of alternative marketing agreements by exposing parties who enter into them to litigation, represents a plain-old end run around both the courts and Congress.

“Past attempts to prove through the courts that somehow agreements and forward contracts afford undue preferences have been rejected by eight appellate courts,” he added.   “Despite these judicial rejections, USDA’s new proposal, which will strongly discourage the use of these agreements by exposing parties who enter into them to litigation, represents a plain-old end run around both the courts and Congress.”

To read AMI’s full statement, click here: http://www.meatinstitute.org/ht/display/ReleaseDetails/i/62357

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