SIDNEY, NE (AP)--Years of record low grain and livestock prices that have driven thousands off farms will continue unless collaborative action is taken, speakers at a Family Farm and Ranch Crisis Rally said.

"Either we cooperate together or we're dead," said South Dakota State Sen. Frank Kloucek Dec. 30.

Kloucek is keying efforts to enact similar laws in Midwestern states to help farmers and ranchers have an even playing field with multinational corporations.

Appearing with him at the rally were Nebraska State Sens. Cap Dierks of Ewing and Jerry Matzke of Sidney.

Kloucek advocated a concentrated effort among those in the agricultural community to write state and national lawmakers to not only stop the mergers of multinational companies, but also to enforce existing antitrust laws.

Matzke said much of the problem in enforcing existing laws relates to jurisdiction. Enforcement of federal agricultural laws is left to the U.S. Department of Agriculture rather than to the Justice Department, he said.

Matzke contrasted the vigorous action taken by the Justice Department in its pursuit of Microsoft's alleged monopoly violations with inaction taken by USDA against like actions by multinational food corporations.

Kloucek and Dierks, who have conducted similar meetings in four Midwestern states, said the only way to get the attention of the federal government is by making state legislators and state attorneys general aware of the problem.

Unity is also important, Dierks said. When he first introduced a livestock price reporting bill, he said packers told him, "If you do this, Nebraska will become an island," meaning no packers would buy Nebraska cattle.

However when similar legislation was passed in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, he said the packers capitulated and agreed to a federal law that had less bite than the individual state laws.

"It wasn't all we wanted, but it was a first step," Dierks said.

The senators also said imported beef needs to be labeled as such so consumers can choose whether to support foreign companies.

They also said packer contracts for livestock should be made a matter of public record and corporations should be banned from feeding and owning livestock.

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