Competition and consolidation in the meat industry may drive a wedge between President Donald Trump and one of Iowa's U.S. senators.
Republican Chuck Grassley says he's introducing a bill to prevent meat packing companies from owning livestock, which he hopes will protect family farms by preserving their ability to compete in the open market.
But the proposal contrasts with the president's efforts to reduce business regulations. Grassley says if the president opposes his bill, that's okay with him.
"But you also want to remember," Grassley says, "how many times during the campaign did the president say he's going to stick up for the little guy? And compared to the big four packers that have 76 percent of all the slaughter in the United States, every family farmer's one of those little guys."
During meetings with cattlemen in Northeast Iowa last summer, Grassley says he heard complaints of unfair market activity favoring the large packing companies.
"Things happen that you wonder why they happen so quickly just at the end of the trading day," he says. "I mean, within the last 10 minutes of the trading day, as an example."
Grassley says his constituents insinuated the big players had information that was unavailable to smaller traders. His bill would stop the beef industry from going the way of poultry and pork, where often farmers sign contracts obliging them to sell everything to a single, large processor.
In the past, Grassley's so-called "packer ban" has not moved beyond the Senate.