Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Thanks for nothing, Frank.

Frank Kloucek, that is.

Kloucek, a Democrat from Scotland and one of the most vocal members of the South Dakota Senate, was one of the leading sponsors of SB 95.

Perhaps it is unfair to single out Kloucek. It was, after all, the majority of the Legislature that approved the measure. And Gov. Janklow signed it.

But Janklow is no fan of Kloucek's. And it appears that one of the reasons that Janklow signed Kloucek's bill was to prove how flawed it is.

The bill has been in effect for only about two weeks, and it looks like many of Janklow's concerns may be coming true.

Meatpackers in South Dakota are required by SB 95 to report all prices they pay for livestock. Kloucek, who helped prime the pump that allowed the bill to flow through both houses on to the governor's desk earlier this year, said at the time he was pleased with the support his bill received from producers, business owners and consumers.

"It was a great victory for the people of South Dakota," he said. "They worked together as a team with one voice. We need more of that."

South Dakota's livestock industry has already been through enough in the last year or two. It's hard to imagine that it can withstand another "victory" like SB 95.

Since the law took effect July 1, the following has happened:

* Several meatpackers, including John Morrell & Co., IBP and Farmland Industries, have stopped offering cash purchases for livestock.

* Major livestock purchasers in South Dakota, such as the Sioux Falls Stock Yards, have called for a special legislative session to clear up all of the confusion the law is causing.

* A lawsuit has been filed by Morrell and the American Meat Institute. They argue that the law interferes with interstate commerce. A federal court trial is scheduled for July 20 at Aberdeen.

The South Dakota Cattlemen's Association is the latest group calling for a special legislative session to deal with the mandatory price reporting law.

The law limits marketing options for cattlemen, said Cal Sandmeier, SDCA president.

"It's costing them money," Sandmeier said.

Sandmeier said his group supports mandatory price reporting, but not the section of the law dealing with price discrimination. That section is the reason why John Morrell & Co., IBP and Farmland Industries have stopped offering cash purchases for livestock, Sandmeier said.

Kloucek said earlier this year that he expected other states would follow South Dakota's lead and pass similar legislation. Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa have done just that. Perhaps they are sorry about that now.

Janklow said shortly after he signed the law he feared it would backfire on the South Dakota livestock industry. "The more I read it, the more I think there are things wrong with it," he said.

SB 95 filled the state Capitol with farmers and ranchers who insisted that it be passed without changes.

"I knew this freight train was moving too fast, but that's the way all the people that wrote that law wanted it," Janklow said. "The people that wanted it got it."

While Kloucek was gladly telling anyone who would listen that the South Dakota livestock industry had just won a major victory, Janklow expressed fears that the new law would give meatpackers the jitters.

"I just think they're going to quit buying," Janklow said last March.

It appears, for the time being at least, that Janklow has been making the right conclusions about this legislation based on the facts, while Kloucek's predictions of the bill's effects have been based too much on simple wishful thinking.

Perhaps the South Dakota livestock industry should pay greater attention to what Janklow has to say.

Kloucek is now lobbying Congress to pass meatpacking and price-reporting laws on the national level. There's just one problem. That's the approach that should have been taken in the beginning. The federal government needs to fix structural problems that interfere with fair trade in livestock.

Even when smaller agricultural states like South Dakota band together with neighboring states, they don't have the necessary political power. The buyers will go to states that welcome free enterprise, leaving our livestock producers with no markets.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>