Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Campaign for Family Farms
vow to fight Smithfield buyout of IBP
Groups label Smithfield's hiring of former antitrust chief "corrupt"
"First Smithfield bought John Morrell, then Dakota Pork, then Murphy Farms, and now they want IBP," said Chillicothe farmer Bill Christison, President of the MRCC, a member organization of the Campaign for Family Farms. "That means family farm hog producers are being systematically excluded from the market. This needs to stop now, and it will stop. We will fight and win and stop this all-out attempt at market control by Joe Luter and Smithfield."
The degree of market control being attempted by Smithfield was revealed late last week when it was reported that Smithfield CEO Joe Luter had hired Joel Klein, until recently head of the antitrust division of the federal Department of Justice, to advise him on the buyout.
"Klein's profiting off his past position, in a way that greases the wheels for Smithfield's empire-building, is corruption, pure and simple," said Minnesota hog farmer and Land Stewardship Project member Monica Kahout. "We reject this kind of blatant greed by Klein and Luter, and so will the American people. Smithfield is in for a fight."
The Campaign for Family Farms helped organize a widely-covered 1,000 person farm meeting on April 18, 1999 in Minnesota. Joel Klein attended the meeting, and spoke for the Department of Justice. "Klein was weak on antitrust action in agriculture then, and now he has joined the other side," said Kahout. "This revolving door between industry and government is wrong and must be stopped."
The Campaign for Family Farms is the multi-state coalition that called for the nationwide referendum on the mandatory pork checkoff. Thousands of hog farmers across the country joined that campaign. The results of the vote are expected by the end of the year.
"We have been talking with the hog farmers who voted down the mandatory pork checkoff," said Illinois hog farmer Phil Wright of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, a member of the Campaign for Family Farms, "and they all oppose corporate concentration. They will fight to stop this buyout."
According to newspaper reports, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) leaders are interested in buying an IBP or Smithfield pork processing plant if one becomes available as a result of the buyout. Such a move could help satisfy potential government antitrust concerns related to Smithfield's acquisition of IBP.
"That just shows you where the NPPC is at - where they've always been," said Rhonda Perry, Missouri hog farmer and program director for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, a member of the Campaign for Family Farms. "They're facilitating the corporate takeover of the hog industry. But we won't let it happen."
|Published in In Motion Magazine, December 3, 2000
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