Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fort Collins agenda is posted

From the U.S. Department of Justice:


Workshop to be Held at Colorado State University

WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today the agenda and panelists for the Aug. 27, 2010, joint public workshop in Fort Collins, Colo., on competition in the livestock industry. This is the fourth in a series of five public workshops. This workshop is focused on the state of competition and regulation in the livestock sectors, in particular the cattle industry.

The workshop will be held in the main ballroom of the Lory Student Center, Colorado State University, 1101 Centre Avenue Mall, Fort Collins. Attendance is free and open to the public. The general public and media interested in attending the Colorado workshop should register at www.conferences.colostate.edu/LiveStockWorkshop.

The workshop will begin with opening remarks and a roundtable discussion including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division Christine Varney. They will be joined by U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Stulp and Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock.

Following this introductory discussion, there will be three panels composed of ranchers, farmers, academics and other industry stakeholders. First, Secretary Vilsack and Assistant Attorney General Varney will moderate a conversation among producers and feeders. Second, a panel on trends will look at developments in the industry in recent decades and the trajectory moving forward. The final panel will then discuss in greater depth issues such as contracting, transparency and vertical integration.

Additionally, there will be three hours dedicated to public testimony. This will be split into two sessions, one at mid-day and the other after the final panel.

The schedule for the day is as follows:

8:30 a.m - 8:45 a.m. MDT Opening Remarks

Eric Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture

8:45 a.m. - 9:45 a.m. MDT Keynote Roundtable Discussion

Eric Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Betsy Markey, Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives
Bill Ritter Jr., Governor, state of Colorado
John Suthers, Attorney General, state of Colorado
Steve Bullock, Attorney General, state of Montana
John Stulp, Commissioner of Agriculture, state of Colorado

9:45 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. MDT Coffee Break

10:15 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. MDT Producer/Feeder Presentation of Issues

This panel will be an opportunity to hear first-hand from producers or feeders as they share their experiences and perspectives on the industry.

Moderators: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice

Mike Harper, sheep producer, Eaton, Colo.
Dr. Taylor Haynes, rancher, Cheyenne, Wyo.
Robbie LeValley, rancher, Hotchkiss, Colo.
Harry Livermont, rancher, Interior, S.D.
Chris Petersen, hog farmer, Clear Lake, Iowa
Allen Sents, feedlot owner, Marquette, Kan.
Alden Zuhlke, rancher, Brunswick, Neb.

11:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. MDT Lunch

12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. MDT Public Testimony

1:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. MDT Panel I - Trends in the Livestock Industry

This panel will discuss trends in the livestock industry, including issues associated with contracting, price transparency and the effects of concentration.

Moderator: Philip Weiser, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice

Jerry Bohn, general manager, Pratt Feeders, Pratt, Kan.
Libby Cook, co-founder, Wild Oats Markets and Sunflower Farmers Markets
Mark Greenwood, vice president, commercial lending, AgStar Financial Services
Bill Heffernan, professor emeritus of rural sociology, University of Missouri
Mark Lauritsen, international vice president, director food processing, packing and manufacturing division, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
Gilles Stockton, rancher, Range, Mont.
Armando Valdez, rancher, La Jara, Colo.
Clem Ward, professor and extension economist, Oklahoma State University

2:45 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. MDT Panel II - Market Structure

This panel will include a variety of market participants who will discuss market structure issues in the livestock industry.

Moderator: James MacDonald, Chief, Agricultural Structure and Productivity Branch, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Bruce Cobb, general manager, Consolidated Beef Producers
David Domina, attorney, Domina Law Group
Mark Dopp, attorney, American Meat Institute
James Herring, president and chief executive officer, Friona Industries
Robert Mack, cattle producer/feeder, Watertown, S.D.
Bob Miller, rancher, Okmulgee, Okla.
William Rishel, Richel Angus, Platt, Neb.
Charlie Rogers, owner/general manager, Clovis Livestock Auction

4:00 p.m. - 4:15 p.m. MDT Break

4:15 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. MDT Public Testimony

6:30 p.m. MDT Concluding Remarks

Additional information, including submitted public comments and transcripts for past workshops can be found at the Antitrust Division's agriculture workshop website at www.justice.gov/atr/public/workshops/ag2010/index.htm. While no streaming webcast will be available, transcripts and video will be available for this workshop at a later date on the Antitrust Division's website. Individuals seeking more information on the workshops should contact agriculturalworkshops@usdoj.gov.

The Capital Press' story is here. In my view, the absence of a representative of the "big four" packing companies raises serious questions about the credibility of the meeting, even if two of the companies did decline invitations to the event. After all, don't even the packers' critics want an explanation of how and why they set prices the way they do? Did the packers opt out because they didn't want to walk into an ambush?

No one wants a glorified complaining session at taxpayer expense, but it appears that this is what we may have on Friday.

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