- Andrea GantzNebraska is considering legislation that would make it legal for pork processors to own pigs in the state.
A law in Nebraska that prohibits processors from owning hogs in the state could be overturned if a bill proposed in the state’s legislature is passed.
Since states like Iowa and South Dakota that border Nebraska allow corporations such as Smithfield Foods or Tyson Foods to cut costs by entering contracts with farmers to raise the animals that are owned by the companies, it puts Nebraska at a disadvantage, said Sen. Ken Schilz, who introduced the legislation. He adds that removing the ban on company-owned hogs could create opportunities for farmers in Nebraska that may not otherwise be there.
“(Nebraska has) been in population decline for the last 50 years,” he said. “So we’d better start doing some things to entice people to come back.”
The proposed legislation has its opponents, including the Center for Rural Affairs. Traci Bruckner, a spokesperson for the center, says Nebraska’s ban on packer ownership prevents companies from dominating the pork industry. Bruckner believes that if Nebraska swine producers enter contracts with corporations, they would give up control of the livestock, which is the most valuable part of the farm.
“We think farmers should own livestock in the state, not packers,” said Bruckner. “If vertical integration was the answer, rural America would be a paradise, and it’s not.”
But the bill also has its supporters, such as hog farmer Terry O’Neel. He says that Nebraska is losing out to other states that allow corporations to own hogs. O’Neel said that it bothers him that a lot of pigs being raised in Iowa are processed in Nebraska plants.
“We’re missing out on that opportunity. I’ve seen what’s happened in Iowa. I’m seeing what’s happening in South Dakota. It seems like we’re becoming an island,” said O’Neel.