Governor signs bill banning meatpacker ownership

Associated Press

DES MOINES -- The governor has signed a bill that strengthens a law prohibiting meatpackers from owning livestock in Iowa.

The legislation is intended to close a loophole in state law by forbidding meatpackers from financing and owning livestock operations.

Lawmakers became aware of the loophole when Smithfield Foods Inc. purchased Murphy Family Farms. Because of Iowa's ban, Murphy sold its hog operations to a former manager, Randall Stoecker, who managed Prestage-Stoecker Farms in Ames.

William Prestage, a director on Smithfield's board, owns nearly half the company, and he is a member of Smithfield Foods' board of directors.


Attorney General Tom Miller said the deal with Prestage-Stoecker was an attempt to circumvent the law, but a Humboldt County judge ruled against Miller's complaint earlier this year.

Lawmakers have tried to resolve the situation through a provision that gives Prestage-Stoecker two years to comply.

Legislators argue that allowing meatpackers to own livestock gives the companies too much control over farmers, their products and profits.

Nearly 250 farmers raise hogs for Prestage-Stoecker. They have told lawmakers that the legislation could force the company out of the state, leaving them jobless.

"This is the first bill I remember where there was a lot of controversy and it passed both houses unanimously,'' said Sen. Mark Zieman, a Postville Republican, who managed the bill in the Senate. "It's one of the few bills that we've had a lot of bipartisan cooperation on this session.''

Zieman said the bill will help the farmer and it will be good for the state of Iowa.

Agri News senior staff writer Jean Caspers-Simmet contributed to this report.

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