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FROM: INDEPENDENT CATTLEMEN OF NEBRASKA, Box 241, Hyannis, NE 69350 Phone: 308-282-2826

Media Contact: Mary Mulligan (402) 967-3464; Email:



(Grand Island, NE) Independent Cattlemen Board member Jim Hanna provided testimony to the Senate Ag Committee regarding the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill at a hearing held in Grand Island last week. The hearing was conducted by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Chairman of the Committee, and Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Ben Nelson (D-NE).

“It was a tremendous honor to be selected to participate,” said Hanna. “The fact that we were included on the panel shows how far ICON has come in a short time. We have been recognized as an important voice in State and National issues and our members can be assured they are now being heard.”

Hanna commented that government subsidization, rural development, and the like, are secondary to the more pressing problem of the lack of profitability in agriculture today. “Until a business climate is created in which enough income is generated to pay for land, cover the operating debt and overhead, as well as provide a modest profit, young people will never be attracted back to the land, and rural communities will continue to decline,” he said.

“U.S. consumers have access to the safest, most diverse, and inexpensive food supply in the world; however, they must understand that the cost to produce it is constantly on the rise,” Hanna said. “While it is true that cattle have reached new, but certainly not unreasonable, price levels, it should be noted that cattle producers are receiving an ever-smaller share of each dollar generated by the retail sale of beef.

Hanna’s testimony outlined several critical items that must be included in the 2007 Farm Bill. “A comprehensive Competition Title must be drafted in order to assure that the more concentrated segments of our industry do not unduly influence the independent business structure that is the hallmark of our ranching and farming economy,” he said.

According to Hanna, this Title, at a minimum, should address topics such as:

Limiting a meat packer’s ability to own and control cattle in excess of 14 days prior to slaughter

Prohibiting discriminatory pricing, and enacting reforms that would end unfair practices in agricultural contracts

Reauthorizing the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting bill, including Provisions proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Retaining and funding Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (M-COOL)

Hanna suggested several alternative and less-expensive methods to implement M-COOL. “Implementation costs can be lowered if processors can distinguish U.S. and foreign cattle entering into production lines,” Hanna explained. “Currently, all cattle from Canada and Mexico are marked for health and safety reasons. Allowing packers to rely on these markings will greatly lower the cost of COOL.

Hanna explained, “The consumer currently has no way to differentiate between US and imported beef products. We believe that, given the choice, the consumer will be willing to pay a higher price for US beef.

Commenting on forward contracting, Hanna said it is important that the rules be written so that those contracts are handled in a fair manner so that certain entities in the business are not using their leverage to force producers into contracts that are not good for the producer’s bottom line.

“As it now stands, four companies in the beef-packing industry control over 80 percent of that production,” Hanna continued. “Economists will tell you that when you have a four-firm concentration of over 40 percent, you need to start scrutinizing those industries very carefully.”

“With the kind of leverage and power they’re holding over the rest of the industry, it’s critical to the survival of independent small farms and ranches in Nebraska that we make sure we’re being dealt with fairly,” he added. “All transactions must be open and available to all producers.”


"Solid as a windmill. Always working for the independent producer."