Nebraska lawmakers pass bill to end ban on packer-owned hogs

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Lawmakers have passed a bill that would end Nebraska's status as the only state which prohibits in-state meatpackers from owning hogs.

Senators voted 34-14 on Friday to approve the measure, which divided the state's farm groups and rural senators.

Supporters tout the measure as a way to help Nebraska's hog industry, which has grown slower than in several nearby states. But critics say the bill would give large packers too much leverage over small farms by allowing them to control virtually the entire supply chain.

Opponents have also leveled criticism at Smithfield Foods, a Chinese-owned pork processor that has quietly lobbied for the bill and contributed to at least 20 current state lawmakers, Gov. Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson.