Debate on the bill lifting Nebraska’s ban on meatpackers owning hogs causes a rare split among the Unicameral’s rural delegation.
Normally united to promote rural interests, the hog packer bill divided rural legislators.
“Well, I hope my urban colleagues are enjoying the split among us rural, ag senators,” Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson remarked during legislative floor debate on LB 176.
The bill ends Nebraska’s status as the only state that still prohibits meatpackers from owning hogs. Opponents see it as ushering in corporate farming and ushering out independent hog producers. Supporters see it as moving Nebraska into modern hog practices in an effort to increase hog production in the state.
Friesen supported the move, though acknowledges the controversy.
“This is a difficult decision. It should be a difficult decision,” Friesen told his colleagues. “But, if we want to grow the hog industry, we have to do something. We can’t just sit and let it go away.”
North Platte Sen. Mike Groene said rural residents are torn over the issue.
“This is not unanimous, not even close,” Groene stated. “Farmers Union is against it. Farm Bureau is for it; their membership is split. It was split down the middle. They had controversy when they decided to endorse this or not.”
Many opponents of the bill mentioned the decision by the Nebraska Farm Bureau to endorse LB 176. They contended the decision split the Farm Bureau with members, even some board members, threatening to quit the organization over the issue.
The fact that opponents, led by Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis, mounted a last ditch effort against the bill disclosed how significant an issue this is in rural Nebraska. Often, there is no debate on final reading. Rarely is there a filibuster. Davis and opponents held up the vote for two hours before supporters could call for a cloture vote, cut off debate, and force a vote.
LB 176 passed 34-14.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]