Senate votes to force packer price disclosure

Senate votes to force packer price disclosure by Jaimi Reimer South Dakota producers are one step farther on their way to open, free, and fair markets.

The Senate passed SB95, 21-12, Feb. 1. This �sunshine legislation,� as it was coined in committee, would mandate price reporting from all packers and auction markets within South Dakota.

The bill was introduced to try to force packers to disclose the prices they pay on animal contracts. One of the main components of those contracts is secrecy, not only of the price paid to the producer, but the contract�s entire existence.

Farmers and ranchers packed the Senate gallery to hear the debate, much as they did committee rooms during testimony of the bill.

�Livestock markets can no longer be called part of the free market enterprise,� said Sen. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland.

He said that by passing this bill, the state would demonstrate leadership that stands up to the raw power of the packers. �We must represent our constituents and work for the betterment of South Dakota,� said Kloucek.

Kloucek commented prior to the vote that passage of the bill was one way to help the agriculture industry. When hog prices hit rock bottom, Kloucek said many farmers gave up and cashed in their chips, so to speak, by selling their herds. Those rock-bottom prices and secret contracts have hurt the individual relationship packers had with producers. Kloucek said that SB95 was one way to get the trust back in those relationships.

Sen. Randy Frederick, R-Hayti, successfully amended the bill to include livestock auction barns.

�If (price discovery is) what we demand and what we really want, let�s get everybody in the same boat rowing the same way,� said Frederick. �Let�s add everybody and not let a select few out of the boat.�

Sen. Barbara Everist, R-Sioux Falls, proposed an amendment making implementation of the bill contingent on the passing of �substantially similar� legislation in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.

�We don�t want to be second to anybody,� said Sen. Eric Bogue, R-Dupree, in declaring his opposition to the amendment, which subsequently failed.

�This issue is a states rights issue. We can set the stage for free and open markets for our state and our nation,� Kloucek said.

SB95 will move to the House for consideration.

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