Meatpackers will have to purchase more of their hogs from independent family farmers under legislation approved by the Iowa Senate on Tuesday afternoon. Big meatpackers now buy many of their hogs on contract from farmers, and lock in the price without a sale at auction. The bill requires them to purchase at least 25-percent of their hogs from independent farmers.
Senator Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, urged the Senate to pass the bill. "I would ask the senate to think again about casting a vote for the small independent pork producers of this state, the ones that keep our fairs alive, our 4-H and our future farmers."
Kibbie said the market for independent hog producers has almost disappeared. He describes signs at packers’ unloading docks that say "contract hogs only." Kibbie says we must provide a market for the independent producer. Supporters argued consumers would get a better price on meat if fewer hogs were produced on contract for the big packing companies.
Critics said you can’t turn back the clock on Iowa agriculture. The drive to curtail packer ownership of livestock on the farm stems in part from the discovery that so few animals are sold at public auction these days that the open-market price is hard to determine. This bill puts into effect an agreement Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller worked out with meatpackers Smithfield, Cargill, and Hormel — and extends the agreement to Tyson Foods as well.