What Tom Vilsack Is Up to in Fort Collins

August 27 2010, 9:49 AM
Earlier this week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack failed in his attempt to convince Shirley Sherrod to return to work, after Vilsack took responsibility for her hasty ouster in the wake of a video posted by a conservative blogger, which made Sherrod appear racist. But Vilsack has moved on to other business---in Colorado. Yesterday, Vilsack visited Centennial Elementary School to promote healthy eating, reports 9News. And today he takes an ongoing investigation of livestock industry processors to Fort Collins. At stake are how large meat processors, such as Tyson Foods and Cargill, operate, according to Bloomberg. Vilsack, who will be accompanied by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, will meet with farmers, meatpackers, and feedlot owners to gauge their support for a proposal that would prevent meat processors from selling livestock to each other and requiring them to justify how they select their meat suppliers. The proposal came earlier this year, after it was discovered that cattle and hog farms have shrunk by 55 percent since 1980. Over the same period, the top four beef companies control 80 percent of output, up from 36 percent. "Livestock production has become so concentrated that it's difficult for some producers even to participate," says Bob Mack, 50, a cattle feed-lot operator from Watertown, South Dakota. Bill Bullard, the president of Montana's Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, has been lobbying his peers for a massive turnout and hopes 25,000 ranchers show up, writes The Denver Post. Just 1,300 had registered for the workshop with Vilsack at last count.