Sow production concentrates at Smithfield; request for merger review unanswered; jury awards $4.5 million in damages against PSF
by John Crabtree, firstname.lastname@example.org, Center for Rural Affairs
>> Successful Farming’s annual Pork Powerhouses edition hit the news-stands in October, detailing an expansion of 323,000 sows in production over last year. Seventy-five percent of that expansion was concentrated in the hands of Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork producer and packer.
Comparing last year’s numbers to 2006, Smithfield’s proposed merger with Premium Standard Farms (PSF) would bring nearly one million sows from 2005 under Smithfield’s banner. However, Successful Farming lists 1.2 million sows in production under Smithfield, representing an additional increase of 240,000 sows for the pork conglomerate. Presumably, this represents increases at both Smithfield and Premium Standard facilities.
The magazine’s list of largest producers shows an increase of nearly 50,000 sows for Triumph Foods in St. Joseph, Missouri, the only other large increase among the nation’s 20 largest producers. The remaining sows were added in smaller increments spread among six of the remaining 18 largest producers.
>> As of this writing, we know of no response from the Department of Justice or USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Administration to numerous calls for a thorough review of the Smithfield acquisition of Premium Standard. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), National Farmers Union, the Center, and others have requested action from Justice and USDA.
>> On September 22, only weeks after the announcement of Smithfield’s acquisition of Premium Standard, a jury in Jackson County, Missouri, ordered PSF to pay $4.5 million in damages to three families who live near Premium Standard’s production facility in Trenton, Missouri. The lawsuit was focused on neighboring families’ battles with odor from the facility.
The jury also found grounds for punitive damages against Premium Standard, but the company agreed not to appeal the actual damages in exchange for the plaintiffs’ agreement to drop their requests for punitive damages.
According to the families’ attorney the verdict is “the biggest award in the nation against a major confined animal producer.” Premium Standard has fought a long, running battle with neighbors and some Missouri regulators and policymakers. But there was no indication that the verdict surprised Smithfield, nor any indication it will impact the merger.
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