Lawmakers rally support for ag bills

Lawmakers rally support for ag bills by Susan Smith Senators and representatives, farmers and ranchers gathered on the front steps of the South Dakota Capitol March 1 to show their support for SB 164, a bill that will put enforcement muscle behind SB 95, which mandates price reporting by meat packers. Farmers and ranchers again gathered on the steps after word began to circulate that Gov. Bill Janklow signed SB 95.

SB 164 passed the House the same day.

Critics of SB 95 claim it will cause boycotting of South Dakota by meat packing giants such as Iowa Beef.

SB 164 includes in state law portions of the federal Packers and Stockyards Act, which prohibits discrimination by packers. This will give the state the authority to police packer transactions.

Rep. Roland Chicoine, D-Elk Point, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the act gives South Dakota the �guns� it needs to enforce 95. Chicoine said that with the bill, livestock producers need only make one phone

call if packers choose to discriminate against South Dakota as a result of passage of SB 95.

�This is so we don�t have to worry about Iowa Beef coming in and boycotting South Dakota,� Chicoine said.

Rep. Doug Kazmerzak, D-Erwin, applauded the leadership roll South Dakota has taken in regards to price reporting legislation. He said other states are jumping on the bandwagon as a result.

�It�s a sign of the times,� Kazmerzak said. Similar legislation is pending or being introduced in Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska and Kansas.

Low prices and secret deals have taken away much of the trust between cattle buyers and producers. Rep. Quinten L. Burg, D-Wessington Springs, said the bill was a way to bring some of that trust back.

�As a fat cattle producer, when a buyer comes on your place, you don�t have any trust as to the price he�s offering you,� Burg said. �This is a way to bring trust back to the marketplace and back to the legislature.�

The bill also sends a message to the rest of the nation about the severity of the ag crisis, Sen. Frank Kloucek said. Kloucek urged legislators not to amend SB 164, which has already been amended twice. The first time it was amended, a provision was added that would have repealed SB 95 if similar legislation was enacted in other states. He said the threat of more amendments to SB 164 and two brand pricing bills was still a possibility.

�I would encourage you not to mess with them, just send them out,� Kloucek said. �I don't believe this hurts the packers. The packers have nothing to fear, but fear itself.�

South Dakota�s congressional delegation of Rep. John Thune, Sen. Tom Daschle and Sen. Tim Johnson, urged the legislature to pass SB 95 to give added fuel for federal legislation they are trying to get passed, Kloucek said.

�This will make people aware of what�s going on in South Dakota,� Kloucek said.

Gov. Bill Janklow signed the bill during the afternoon of March 1, but issued a statement saying that it was one of the more poorly drafted bills he had ever seen.

�As I read Section 2, I�m left with three questions: Does it mean cattle to be slaughtered in South Dakota; or cattle to be purchased in South Dakota for slaughter both in and outside the state; or both? Tell me how you can decide that according to the first sentence of Section 2.�

The first sentence in Section 2 of the bill states that a packer purchasing or soliciting livestock for slaughter in this state may not discriminate in prices paid or offered to be paid to sellers of that livestock. The section does not apply to sales of livestock if certain requirements are met. Those include quality of livestock, a payment

method specifying prices paid for criteria relating to carcass merit, costs of transporting and acquiring the livestock, or an agreement for delivery of livestock at a specified date or time. The section also does not apply if the packer publishes information about differential payments.

Janklow said he is unsure of the effect SB 95 will have on South Dakota's ag economy, but has expressed fears throughout the session that the bill will do more harm than good. He said one of the problems is that the bill will not go into effect until July 1, but is being billed as if it will go into effect immediately.

�This is a bill that caters to pandering on people�s fears and intimidation tactics. Normally I wouldn�t sign legislation that I believe isn�t in the best interests of South Dakota, but we�ve reached the point where we have to find out whether it�s good or bad,� Janklow said.

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