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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., backed legislation this week that he said would give ranchers an opportunity to make a living from an open and fair market by banning meat packer ownership of livestock.

Enzi cosponsored S. 27, a bill introduced this week by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to amend the Packers and Stockyards Act to make it unlawful for a packer to own, feed, or control livestock seven business days before slaughter. Also, the bill would exempt from the ban packing operations owned by cooperatives whose members are livestock producers and provide livestock to the operation, as well as small packers that only own one plant or process less than 100,000 hogs or 125,000 head of cattle per year.

"This bill is intended to level the playing field between concentrated packers and small and medium sized producers," said Enzi. "Meat packers can manipulate the market by padding their supply. This prevents ranchers from receiving a fair price and is consequently driving them out of business. Meat packer ownership of livestock is the most visible aspect of the captive supply problem, and banning it will be a very important first step in giving ranchers more options in dealing with the larger problem of captive supply."

The Senate passed similar language to S. 27 last year as an amendment to the 2002 Farm Bill. The amendment would have banned packer ownership 14 days prior to slaughter and given an exemption to plants that slaughtered less than 2 percent of the nation's livestock per commodity or 725,000 cattle and 1.9 million hogs. The amendment was dropped, however, from the compromise version agreed to with the House.

Enzi urged the Senate Agriculture committee last year to retain the packer ban language in the final version of the Farm Bill and also called on Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate the affect of meat packer practices on market concentration and independent cattle producers.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee for consideration.