Senate rebuffs U.S. meatpackers

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The Senate refused on Tuesday to back off a ban on meatpackers owning their own supplies of livestock, turning aside warnings by the companies that the prohibition would cause upheaval in the beef and pork industries.

The Senate narrowly approved the ban in December as an amendment to legislation extending federal farm programs. Packers, who would have up to 18 months to sell off any livestock that they own, said the restrictions make it harder for them to procure adequate supplies of top-quality meat.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the 53-46 Senate vote Tuesday in favor of the ban was a victory for producers who want to restrain meatpackers.

"A free-market economy depends on competition," he said. "Ownership within the hands of too few within the food and feed chain diminishes the leverage and opportunities to compete for small and mid-sized producers."

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