LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska’s mainstream agriculture organizations representing Nebraska pork producers, as well as Nebraska business groups, support eliminating the ban on packer ownership of hogs in Nebraska. LB 176, which eliminates the ban, is up for debate before the Nebraska legislature. The groups support is founded in the fact that the ban actually hurts farm families looking for opportunities to engaging in hog production and has been a major contributor to declining hog numbers in Nebraska for decades.
“While on its face, the ban on packer ownership of hogs may seem like a good idea to protect Nebraska farm families. However, the reality is that it’s had the reverse effect and Nebraska farmers looking to diversify into hog production are missing out on opportunities that are being capitalized by farmers in other states,” said Al Juhnke, executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association.
From 1997 to 2007 Nebraska lost 63 percent of its hog numbers and experienced another 25 percent decline from 2007 to 2012. After ranking 6th nationally in hog numbers for several years, Nebraska now ranks 8th in production. Adding salt to the wound is that while Nebraska production numbers have declined, pork numbers in neighboring states have been on the rise. South Dakota grew its hog production numbers by 5 percent last year alone. Today, Iowa produces seven times the amount of hogs produced in Nebraska. The loss in hog numbers does not just hurt pork producers but hurts Nebraska mainstream businesses and economic opportunity.
“This law limits opportunities for Nebraska farm families and it’s slowly killing hog production in our state. If you cut beyond the anti-packer rhetoric and understand the challenges our pork producers face today, it’s clear why we need to change the law. Arguments that removing the ban will harm independent producers don’t hold up. Iowa doesn’t prevent pork processors from owning hogs and they still procure nearly one-half of their hogs from independent producers,” said Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau.
The groups also cite the fact that current state law prohibits packers who own processing facilities in Nebraska from owning hogs. There is no prohibition preventing packers who own facilities in other states from owning hogs in Nebraska and participating in contract feeding agreements with Nebraska farmers.
“Not only does this law eliminate opportunities for farmers, it punishes companies in Nebraska who own facilities, employ Nebraskans, and pay Nebraska taxes. Nebraska is the last state in the United States to have the ban on packer ownership. We can no longer afford to be an island that leaves both our farmers and Nebraska companies at a competitive disadvantage,” said Barry Kennedy, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Nebraska agriculture organizations supporting LB 176 include the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, the Nebraska Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Corn Growers Association, the Nebraska Soybean Growers Association, the Nebraska Bankers Association and the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry.