The court is recessed for today’s holiday after one week of the trial over meatpacking corporations and the way they buy cattle. Attorney Dave Domina says the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 forbids packers from doing things that depress the cash price of livestock. He’s charging that packer ownership and contracting with producers has so deeply reduced cash-market selling that the use of those agreements amount to an unlawful practice. Domina said in court last week that Tyson, formerly IBP, makes marketing agreements with farmers that amount to “captive supply” of cattle…giving no open-market bids that might drive up prices, and forcing the farmers to sell at the price the packer offers. If they win, they’re asking for a cash award as well as “injunctive relief.” That, the lawyer says, will once again have packing companies in the open market buying cattle. He says it will let people raise cattle sell them, and eliminate contract growing, which he charges has decimated the poultry industry and is about to do to the swine industry. At least through the first week of trial, the packer hasn’t denied having contracts with farmers, and appears to be preparing to present a “very technical” case to the jury. The handful of farmers who started this case have finally seen it grow into a class-action suit. This case was filed in 1996, has been the subject already of 4 appeals and “hundreds” of hearings. Tyson’s lawyers are saying that many farmers want the stability of having a contract with the packer even before their animals are raised and ready for market.
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