Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Iowa and Tyson agree on corporate-farm rules as industry leaders call for liquidation of swine herds

Tyson Foods and the state of Iowa have reached an agreement to exempt the vertically integrated meat producer from state restrictions on corporate farming. The law that prevents corporate ownership of swine production and processing facilities will not apply to Tyson through 2015, Dan Piller of The Des Moines Register reports, but will still allow Iowa hog farmers the right to form associations, report illegal activities and disclose production contracts. The agreement is similar to ones between Iowa and Smithfield Foods, Cargill and Hormel, Piller writes, and specifies Tyson will not produce its own swine for slaughter before September 2010.

Virginia-based Smithfield first challenged Iowa's corporate farming laws in 2002, Piller notes. "It became apparent to us that Iowa might lose the case," Iowa Assistant Attorney General Steve Moline told Piller. "Smithfield didn't want to proceed with a long lawsuit, so a consent agreement was reached in that case that essentially gave contract growers certain rights in return for Iowa staying the execution of certain provisions of the corporate-farming law." (Read more)

The Friday agreement comes after two consecutive years of uninterrupted losses by Iowa hog farmers, combined with a hog population that has increased by 7.2 million over the last 12 years. "A combination of better genetics, climate and disease control, more productive sows and a need for cash flow to keep up payments on confinements slows the process of reducing herds," Piller wrote in a Sunday story. Steve Meyer of Paragon Economics, who advises the National Pork Producers Council, told Piller a reduction in the nation's hog herd of up to 12 percent would be needed to bring supply in balance with demand. (Read more)

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