The Unicameral advanced the bill after first-round debate, but a filibuster prevented it from advancing from second-round debate. It is dead for the legislative session.
At present, corporate ownership of livestock is banned in Nebraska.
Senator Ken Schilz of Ogallala, the sponsor of LB 176, argued during legislative floor debate that state law is holding Nebraska pork producers back.
“Nearly every state that surrounds us are seeing significant growth in their hog industries,” Schilz told legislators as he opened on the bill. “Nebraska is not keeping pace with those leading hog-producing states.”
Schilz got the needed 33 votes to overcome the first filibuster. But opponents prevailed during the second round, when Schilz fell two votes short of the total needed to overcome the second filibuster.
State law, at present, prohibits meat packers from owning livestock. Under the bill, the prohibition would be lifted for hogs and kept in place for cattle.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins is one of a number of rural senators opposing the bill.
“This bill is not good for small Nebraska producers. The independence of the Nebraska farmer is renowned,” Bloomfield said during legislative floor debate. “This bill, if passed, eliminates that independence.”
But, Sen. John Stinner, a banker in Gering, said the arrangement between a corporation and a contract producer would promote stability and profitability in the hog industry.
“I will tell you that the family farm has now morphed into thousands of acres of production, technology has been incorporated throughout their organization and many times these family farms and farms have now morphed into trucking organizations, cattle feeding, hog production, and so on,” Stinner stated. “So, they are looking for ways to continue to diversify, continue to expand, and continue to build.”
Sen. Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids doesn’t see it that way.
Sullivan argued allowing meat packers to own the hogs and contract with producers isn’t a good bargain.
“Well, I would suggest to you that this bill makes those producers nothing more than serfs,” Sullivan said. “Yes, I fully agree, ownership is something. Ownership is quite a lot. Ownership of the land, taking the risks to build that facility, but if you don’t own the livestock, what do you put in those facilities?”
Supporters argue Nebraska must change to meet the changes of the hog industry.