Testimony on the 2007 Farm Bill

July 6, 2007

Contact: Anne Miller(406) 557-2982

Washington, July 6, 2007 

TESTIMONY ON BEHALF OF
MONTANA PORK PRODUCERS COUNCIL
BEFORE THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE, NUTRITION & FORESTRY
ON THE 2007 FARM BILL

July 6, 2007

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, we thank you for the opportunity to represent the needs of our producer membership in regards to the 2007 Farm Bill.

The Montana Pork Producers Council has served pork producer interests since its inception in 1958, at that time under the name of the Montana Swine Growers Association. Since then, many changes have occurred within the industry as a result of changing agricultural policies and trade. We are a highly viable industry, contributing to the local economies throughout the state.

Currently, our Montana industry consists of 500 hog operations, marketing $32.5 million dollars in gross receipts for 2006. Of these dollars, 90% were received through the Montana Hog Marketing Association.

Several factors set our Council apart from other livestock industry groups within Montana. Over 85% percent of hogs marketed originate from the Hutterite Colonies. This is the highest such production ratio of any state in the nation. Our producer majority also heavily utilizes Asian and natural food niche markets, which primarily rely on the transport of live hogs to surrounding states.

We ask that you consider the needs of our membership to provide a competitive infrastructure, supporting agriculture for generations to come. The following statements highlight our major concerns for the 2007 Farm Bill.

Country of Origin Labeling:
Pork producers believe that the 2007 Farm Bill should provide an opportunity to discuss and debate the issues surrounding COOL. The provision set to take effect Sept 30, 2008 lacks proof that US consumers are willing to pay higher prices at the meat counter to financially bear the burden of such a program. In Montana, during debate over the Mandatory Country Of Origin Placarding Act (MCOOP), a member of the Governor’s committee voiced repeated concerns over the rise in food costs in relation to the income of Montanans at or below poverty level. It is our position that you cannot successfully mandate the producer or consumer to outlay additional costs until they are ready to do so. Therefore we strongly believe that the provision needs to be repealed and replaced with a voluntary program. The price of ignoring this upcoming implementation date is to harm both the mouth and the hand that feeds it.

National Animal Identification:
We support the implementation of a mandatory national animal identification system to provide coherent and cohesive information to emergency personnel in the event of an animal disease outbreak. This is just as necessary to provide business continuity to operations not affected by the situation as it is to pinpoint and assist the affected operations. Currently, Montana producers are required to obtain a premise identification to participate in the voluntary Pork Quality Assurance Plus program administered by the National Pork Board.  This program receives widespread support from the industry and is viewed by our packers as a dramatic advantage in industry structure.  Producer and consumer confidence in the security of the agriculture industry relies directly on its ability to respond to outside impacts in a timely and well-organized manner. We believe that it is possible to implement such a system without sacrificing the privacy of today’s producer.

Industry Structure:
We believe that the thriving industry in Montana and the US is directly tied to the diversity of production and marketing options available to its producers. Limiting these choices through bans in packer ownership, requirements on spot market transactions or restricting formula-price contracts will cause significant industry contraction. According to GIPSA/RTI research, competition problems are not widespread in the industry. GIPSA goes on to say that proposals restricting competition would make producers and consumers worse off and would leave packers no better off. Mistaken efforts to protect our family-farm producers would actually bury them in paperwork. For example, S. 1017 – Captive Supply Reform Act, would limit the number of animals covered by any one contract to only 30 pigs, or one-sixth of a modern semi-trailer truckload. Many full-time pork producers sell at least 3,000 pigs per year, so the smallest full-time producer would have to complete 100 such bidding processes each year. This harms those lacking the labor for such processes, especially those relying on just a handful of family members to do the work.

We thank you for the Committee’s willingness to receive input from Montana’s pork producers and plan to continue our relationship with those representing us.

Questions may be directed to:

Anne Miller
Executive Director
Montana Pork Producers Council
(406) 557-2982 Phone
(406) 557-2981 Fax
mtpork@midrivers.com Email

Don Herzog
President
Montana Pork Producers Council
(406) 663-2112 Phone
(406) 663-2134 Fax