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Major Livestock Issue Put to Rest

September 28, 2001
By: Sarah Molina
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - An issue that has long split the Missouri agricultural community was finally put to rest Friday morning as Gov. Bob Holden signed a compromise bill to the debated livestock price discrimination law.

The 1999 law was brought back into the spotlight when Holden agreed to include it in the agenda of the recently completed special legislative session.

The original bill restricted discrimination in the prices meat packers paid for livestock and also called for packers to report the prices they paid.

The goal was to protect smaller farmers from getting paid less than larger corporations for the same quality product.

However, the bill unintentionally caused meat packers to stop buying Missouri beef altogether.

The revised bill, which was passed on Sept. 14, now mirrors the federal Packers and Stockyards Act which outlines the specific language for price discrimination. It takes effect today and will expire on Dec. 31, 2002 unless legislatures extended the sunset.

"Hopefully we have amended the language that has caused so much problem in the state," said Sen. John Cauthorn R-Mexico, a co-sponsor of the bill along with Rep. Wes Shoemyer D-Clarence.

Under the 1999 law, University of Missouri economists predicted at least $19 million would be lost by producers due to reduced sales and market prices.

Under the new law, Lowell Mohler, director of the Agriculture Department, assured that all meat processors have promised to return to the Missouri cash market.

"With my signature, stability will return to Missouri's livestock trade, the cash market for live animals will be restored, and producers will no longer face losing millions of dollars," Holden said.

He added, "We have a great livestock industry in our state, but we will never grow this industry if we allow the market place to define us."