Farmers Union National Convention Speakers Say Market Consolidation Costs Farmers, Ranchers and Consumers
HURON, S.D. – Impacts of market consolidation on farmers and ranchers was the focus of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar’s February 26 presentation to producers during the 2021 National Farmers Union Virtual Convention.
“Farmers are paying a lot more, but not getting a lot more,” Klobuchar said. She shared that this is largely due to market consolidation – noting just two companies sell 80 percent of all corn seed. And the Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, pointed out increased input costs do not translate to increased profits.
“When it comes to selling crops and livestock, farmers and ranchers have ever fewer options as they struggle to get a fair price,” Klobuchar said.
Fair prices has been a focus of Farmers Union since its start more than a century ago, explains South Dakota Farmers Union President and National Farmers Union Treasurer, Doug Sombke.
“Farmers and ranchers are not looking for handouts. They seek fair prices and ask the federal government to enforce antitrust laws which are in place,” explained Sombke, a fourth-generation Conde farmer.
Driven by extreme price disparities between what packers paid producers and what they charged retail outlets, Sombke explained that in recent years South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) policy has focused on advocating for antitrust investigation into packers.
Looking to increased competition among meat packers, Klobuchar discussed the bipartisan RAMP-UP Act (short for Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants Act). She credited support from Farmers Union members in helping make the RAMP-UP Act part of the December COVID-19 Relief bill.
“I don’t need to tell you about what’s been happening with meat packing,” Klobuchar said. “This (RAMP-UP Act) provides funding to help small and medium packers to make improvements necessary to meet federal inspections. It will allow them to make sales across state line. The issue here is, it is easier for big companies to meet federal standards and harder for small. Which is why our focus overall, beyond ag has been on small businesses.”
Biofuels were also part of Klobuchar’s talk. “To me, this is, in a way, just another monopoly issue. Oil is trying to drive out biofuels and control the pumps.”
To further support biofuels and higher ethanol blends, like E30, Klobuchar teamed up with Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, to introduce the Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act of 2021. This bill directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a grant program to support the deployment of renewable fuel infrastructure.
Klobuchar also mentioned she is confident the new administration will not be giving out “midnight renewable fuel waivers,” to refineries.
SDFU is a long-time advocate and supporter of ethanol production. In fact, a few hours after Klobuchar’s talk, Sombke joined with POET’s Rob Walther, Vice President Federal Advocacy to discuss the role of biofuels in a new congress and administration.
“As the largest agriculture organization in the state, we tirelessly advocate for what is best for South Dakota family farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” Sombke said. “Our state’s ethanol industry provides a local market for corn as well as its co-product DDGs (dried distillers grain), which many of our cattle producers rely upon.”
South Dakota Farmers & Ranchers Vote on National Policy
Renewable fuels, fair prices for cattle producers and enforcement of antitrust laws will be discussed by farmers and ranchers from across the nation during the Virtual NFU Convention March 1-2.
A grassroots organization, farmer and rancher delegates elected to serve during the SDFU State Convention held in December, will discuss and vote on 2021 National Farmers Union Policy.
South Dakota’s delegates are: Bill Chase, Wolsey; Hank Wonnenberg, Dallas; Rob Lee, De Smet; Jeff Kippley, Aberdeen; Jenae Hansen, Redfield; Gerri Eide, Gettysburg and Rachel Kippley, Aberdeen.
“This is grassroots policy in action,” Sombke said. “Policy for farmers and ranchers, established by farmers and ranchers.”
Policy discussions will be live streamed on the National Farmers Union Facebook page. To view Klobuchar and Sombke’s February 26 talks, visit http://www.nfu.org.
–North Dakota Farmers Union
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In response to the severe drought conditions in the West and Great Plains, the Agriculture Department this week announced that plans to help cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock that rely on grazing.