The shrinking number of livestock producers is a source of concern for Secretary of Agriculture Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE, who said increasing concentration in the meat industry might be to blame.

Vilsack and Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderOne quick asylum fix: How Garland can help domestic violence survivors First redistricting lawsuits filed by Democratic group On The Trail: Census data kicks off the biggest redistricting fight in American history MORE spoke to more than 1,000 meat producers at a public event in Fort Collins, Colo., Friday to discuss how to address the decline of small cattle, hog and dairy farmers during the past 30 years. According to a report from Reuters, many in the audience favored increased government intervention to help smaller producers stay in business.

"We have lost hundreds of thousands of (cattle) producers, We see the same thing in hogs, we see the same thing in dairy," Vilsack said during a Friday press conference.

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The number of meat companies buying U.S. cattle, hogs and chickens has dwindled in recent decades to the point in which a few large companies control the majority of each market. Those large firms have generally lobbied for less government intervention, favoring instead to let the commodities markets dictate prices for cattle and hogs.

Members of the audience alleged meatpacking plants sometimes pay large producers higher prices for their meat simply because of their size. The resulting price disparity is especially harmful for small farms struggling to get by.

Many attendees also used the forum to support or take issue with marketing rules proposed by USDA's Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). Large producers argued the rules would dismantle existing agreements that reward farmers for producing hogs and cattle of a size meat packers want.

Smaller producers say the rules would eliminate back-room deals between large farms and meat packers and enable GIPSA to prosecute violators. The public comment period on GIPSA's proposed rules end on November 22.