March 30, 2012
On Thursday, NSAC joined with a total of 164 organizations on a letter to the Chairs of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees and the Senate and House Judiciary Committees urging them to make the issues of increased agricultural market transparency, fairness and access for farmers and ranchers a top priority in the next Farm Bill and other legislation concerning competition in the farm and food sectors. The overall goal of the measures requested in the letter is to ensure competitive markets and a fair share for family farmers and ranchers of the more than $1.2 trillion spent annually for food in the U.S.
The letter calls for the protection of provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill Livestock Title to clarify and strengthen Packer and Stockyards Act regulations so that the there is a more level playing field for farmer and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry under contract and independent farmers and ranchers facing highly concentrated markets for their livestock. It also calls for continuation of mandatory country-of-origin labeling for selected agricultural products and improvements in livestock mandatory price reporting.
The letter urges the enactment of two measures already introduced into Congress. The first is the Livestock Marketing Fairness Act (S. 1026/H.R. 2631) that would prohibit secret contracts between producers and packers, bringing those contracts into an open market to which all buyers and sellers have access. The second is a bill (S.2141) that would amend the Packers & Stockyards Act to ban packer ownership of livestock in order to deny packers the opportunity to use packer-owned livestock to manipulate the market price for livestock.
In addition, the letter requests new Farm Bill provisions for increased fairness in production contracts between farmers and processors, which is particularly relevant for poultry growers and some hog producers. Other requests include measures to ensure that farmers have access to affordable seed and to ensure that patents on seed cannot be used to undermine competition and stifle scientific innovation in the seed industry by limiting access to germplasm and generic seeds.
Additional measures requested include the establishment of a Special Agricultural Competition Counsel to coordinate the activities of federal agencies responsible for preventing anti-competitive, deceptive and manipulative practices in the farm and food sectors and an annual report from USDA and other relevant federal agencies on concentration in the nation’s agricultural and food markets.