Pork production bill advances

Senators voted to advance a bill Jan. 22 that would allow meatpacking companies to own hogs during production.

Under LB176, introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz last session, a person who owns, leases or holds a legal interest in a swine production operation could enter into a contract to produce swine for a packer. The producer, or contract grower, would own the land and facilities used to raise the livestock and the packer would own the swine. Schilz made the bill his priority bill this session.

The Legislature voted 38-5 to adopt an amendment introduced by Schilz that would ensure a producer’s right to cancel a contract with a packer. The amendment also would allow the state Department of Agriculture to adopt contract regulations that would protect producers from coercion and unfair business practices.

A second Schilz amendment, adopted 37-5, would ban confidentiality clauses in contracts between growers and packers so that growers would be free to share details of the contract with others.

Schilz said the bill would allow packers with facilities in the state to contract with Nebraska hog farmers, something current state law prohibits. He said opponents overstate their argument that the bill threatens Nebraska’s independent producers.

“[Farmers] can contract if they want,” he said. “They can raise independently if they want. This will not cause the damage that everyone is sitting here telling you.”

Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis opposed the bill. The number of hogs raised in Nebraska has been increasing without allowing meatpackers to own hogs, he said. LB176 would eliminate the open market in the pork industry in Nebraska, Davis added, allowing large corporations to set prices for hogs.

“This is a significant decision that we’re making here that is going to change Nebraska agriculture for a long time,” he said.

Schilz filed a motion to invoke cloture, or cease debate and vote on the bill, which succeeded 33-12. Thirty-three votes were needed.

Senators then voted 32-12 to advance the bill to final reading. Twenty-five votes are needed for advancement.

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