And this little piggy squealed …

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Roosters crow, cows moo and pigs squeal.

To be more precise, proud roosters crow, contented cows moo and, contrary to popular folklore, scared pigs — not happy ones — squeal.

In fact, the more scared the pig, the louder the squeal. This simple piece of farm knowledge was confirmed, again, in a squeal-packed, Jan. 5 letter from the American Meat Institute, Big Meat’s powerful Washington, D.C. lobby, to the U.S. Department of Justice complaining about the upcoming Department of Justice-USDA workshops to examine “competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry.”

Squeals

The squeals are understandable. If you’re an American Meat Institute-linked big packer — and there’s nothing but big packers left in America — nothing good can come from the government peeking under your bloody apron.

Geez, you just spent 20 years grinding your producer enemies into legal hamburger through the federal courts, and the last decade deboning every government regulatory agency with any authority over you.

You’re king; you don’t need no stinkin’ “competition” workshops.

In fact, you’re such a smart king that in the Jan. 5 letter to Department of Justice you tell the government that its reasons for the workshops — an examination of “buyer power … vertical integration … legal doctrines and jurisprudence …” — isn’t what’s important.

“(T)hese topics [while] worthy of discussion,” you say, “do not capture other important issues and topics relevant to the issues of agriculture and antitrust.”

For example, you relate, “American Meat Institute has long contended that, with respect to antitrust and competition, consumers, livestock producers, the meat industry, and all other sectors of the economy are best served by a consistent application of a uniform set of statutory requirements.”

Right, and I’ve long contended that if I didn’t have to work for a living, I’d catch more fish, be late for supper every night and “all other sectors of the economy” would be better “served” by both.

Well, maybe not my spousal sector.

Big Meat’s clear target here is the Packers and Stockyards Act; they want USDA and Department of Justice to it defend it rather than reinvigorate it. So strongly does the American Meat Institute feel that the Packers and Stockyards is an unnecessary burden that it attached an 11-page legal essay by a former general counsel to Federal Trade Commission to argue against this “industry-specific” law?

Persuasive

And a persuasive argument it is until, unbelievably, the final footnote to the essay admits that “Although I have not studied the Packers and Stockyards Act with the same care that I have studied the antitrust laws and thus cannot comment on particular issues or interpretations …”

Pardon me, what? (Read both the American Meat Institute letter and the essay at www.meatami.com/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/56320.)

With that as its shaky springboard, American Meat Institute then dives into an even deeper pool. In a section titled “Regulatory Policies, Particularly Food Safety Policies, have affected the Structure of the Meat Industry,” the packer lobby argues that “… the growing scientific knowledge base that leads to evolving food safety policies, and hence a much safer food supply, has also contributed to a more concentrated meat industry.”

Having read the essay, allow me to interpret: So whataya’ government clowns want — more competition or more dirty food?

After that bit of blinding insight, American Meat Institute goes back to the antitrust well for one more bucket of cold water.

“That the industry has and will continue to evolve is clear … [but] knee jerk public policy shifts or actions in the antitrust area that are designed to favor or accommodate a specific industry … are ill-conceived and should not (sic) implemented.”

The letter is typical of the empty baloney big-money special interests serve Washington policy makers every day. It contains everything you’d see, smell and hear in any packing plant. Especially the squeals.

About the Author

Alan Guebert was raised on an 800-acre, 100-cow southern Illinois dairy farm. After graduation from the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as a writer and editor at Professional Farmers of America, Successful Farming magazine and Farm Journal magazine. His syndicated agricultural column, The Farm and Food File, began in June, 1993, and now appears weekly in more than 70 publications throughout the U.S. and Canada. He and spouse Catherine, a social worker, have two adult children. farmandfoodfile.com More Stories by Alan Guebert

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