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Big U.S. Packers Pull Out Their Ammunition

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Roosters crow, cows moo and pigs squeal.

To be more precise, proud roosters crow, contented cows moo and, contrary to popular folklore, scared pigs – not happy ones – squeal. In fact, the more scared the pig, the louder the squeal.

This simple piece of farm knowledge was confirmed, again, in a Jan. 5 letter from the American Meat Institute, Big Meat’s powerful Washington, D.C. lobby, to the U.S. Department of Justice complaining about the upcoming workshops to examine “competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry.”

The squeals are understandable. Geez, you just spent 20 years grinding your producer enemies into legal hamburger through the federal courts and the last decade deboning every government regulatory agency with any authority over you. You’re king; you don’t need no stinkin’ “competition” workshops.

In the Jan. 5 letter you tell the government that its reasons for the workshops – an examination of “buyer power… vertical integration… legal doctrines and jurisprudence…” – aren’t what’s important.

“(T)hese topics [while] worthy of discussion do not capture other important issues and topics relevant to the issues of agriculture and antitrust.”

“AMI has long contended that, with respect to antitrust and competition, consumers, livestock producers, the meat industry, and all other sectors of the economy are best served by a consistent application of a uniform set of statutory requirements.”

Big Meat’s clear target here is the Packers and Stockyards Act. So strongly does the AMI feel that the act is an unnecessary burden that it attached an 11-page legal essay by a former general counsel to Federal Trade Commission to argue against this “industry-specific” law.

And a persuasive argument it is until, unbelievably, the final footnote to the essay admits that “Although I have not studied the Packers and Stockyards Act with the same care that I have studied the antitrust laws and thus cannot comment on particular issues or interpretations…”

With that as its shaky springboard, AMI then dives into an even deeper pool. In a section titled “Regulatory Policies, Particularly Food Safety Policies, have affected the Structure of the Meat Industry,” the packer lobby argues that “…the growing scientific knowledge base that leads to evolving food safety policies, and hence a much safer food supply, has also contributed to a more concentrated meat industry.”

Allow me to interpret: So whataya’ government clowns want – more competition or more dirty food?

AMI then goes back to the antitrust well for one more bucket of cold water. “ …knee jerk public policy shifts or actions in the antitrust area that are designed to favour or accommodate a specific industry… are ill-conceived and should not (sic) implemented.”

The letter is typical of the empty baloney big-money special interests serve Washington policy makers every day. It contains everything you’d see, smell and hear in any packing plant.

Especially the squeals.

Alan Guebert is a syndicated U.S. columnist based in Delavan, Illinois

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