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Farm Press Release

Contact Bob Brammer -- 515-281-6699.

Attorney General Miller Urges Action on Livestock Concentration

DES MOINES. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller commended U.S. Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Tim Johnson of South Dakota for sponsoring a forum on livestock concentration in Sioux City tomorrow and called on the senators to tackle concentration issues in the Congress.

"As Iowa's Attorney General, I am charged with fostering full and free competition in Iowa's economy through the enforcement of antitrust laws," Miller said. "Over the last several years, I have become increasingly concerned with the consolidation of the livestock industry and its impact on competition."

"I know that many Iowans share my concerns and worry that concentration is adversely affecting prices received by producers at the farm gate and paid by consumers at the meat counter," he said.

"I am grateful for this forum that will highlight the importance of these issues and help convince key farm legislators to take needed action in Washington."

Assistant Attorney General Eric Tabor of Miller's Farm Division will represent the Attorney General and be a panelist at the forum.

Miller's office has been actively involved in concentration issues. Miller spearheaded a multi-state effort in the fall of 1996 to ask USDA to take several actions to improve competitiveness in the livestock business. The twenty state attorneys general asked USDA to foster greater public disclosure of key livestock market information; to closely examine mergers and consolidations in the livestock industry in order to protect competition; and to protect "whistle blower" producers from retaliation by packers.

Again this spring, Miller organized several state attorneys general to issue a comment on the rulemaking petition drafted by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC). The comment urged USDA to take several actions to improve reporting of forward contracts on cattle (so-called "captive supplies.")

In addition, Miller's Farm Division has done extensive work on livestock production contracting, which is an avenue to allow some smaller producers to compete with larger firms. A "Livestock Production Contract Checklist" was developed by a statewide task force assembled by Miller and has been disseminated to about 5000 farmers. The checklist provides information on how to enter fair livestock production contracts.