For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Zaks
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Release: New USDA Proposed Rule to Give Livestock and Poultry Growers Fair Shake
Reforms Will Protect Producers from Anticompetitive Discriminatory and Predatory Practices
Washington, DC, October 3, 2022 – Today, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition applauded Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for the publication of a new proposed rule to modernize the century-old Packers and Stockyards Act: “Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act.” This is the second of three expected rules first announced in President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy and arrives on the heels of a proposed rule to bring transparency to the poultry tournament system published in June.
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) applauds the swift and decisive action demonstrated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to publish the second of three expected rules to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA),” said NSAC Policy Specialist, Billy Hackett. “The weakened enforcement of antitrust and fair competition laws over the past 50 years has left livestock and poultry producers trapped in an anticompetitive marketplace, often victims of retaliation or otherwise predatory behavior wielded by unchecked corporate packers. This proposed rule can stop the worst of that exploitation.”
The proposed rule is a needed check on a damaging final rule issued by the Trump Administration in 2020. Despite the intention of the PSA to prevent corporate integrators from giving unwarranted advantages or disadvantages to growers who produce the same type and quality of livestock or poultry in the same relative geographic area, the Trump-era rule creates a blanket defense for corporate integrators in the poultry, hog, and beef markets at the expense of small-scale or contracted producers, allowing packers to justify any action as a “reasonable business decision.”
“The proposed ‘Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act’ rule in part outlines protections against discrimination and retaliation for ‘market vulnerable’ livestock and poultry growers,” added Hackett. “That is a shift from USDA’s past attempts to protect producers under the PSA on the basis of protected class, and while it warrants further examination the distinction appears to cast a broader net of needed protection over all individuals trapped in this anticompetitive cycle. It is time that livestock and poultry producers finally get the fair shake long promised.”
In full, the newest proposed Packers and Stockyards Act rule intends to:
- Prohibit disadvantages and adverse actions against “market vulnerable individuals” who have been subject to or are at heightened risk of differential treatment in relevant markets as undue prejudice;
- Prohibit retaliation against producers that interfere with lawful communications, assertion of rights, associational participation, and other protected activities as unjust discrimination;
- Prohibit regulated entities from employing pretexts, false or misleading statements, or omissions of material facts in contract formation, contract performance, contract termination, and contract refusal as deceptive practices; and
- Require recordkeeping to support USDA monitoring, evaluation, and enforcement of compliance with aspects of this rule.
NSAC will continue to work with our members and allies to support and inform the ongoing PSA rulemakings. Attempts to strengthen PSA have spanned the last decade, prompted by a 2008 Farm Bill mandate to publish rules to better define prohibited practices to facilitate the enforcement of key provisions, but until now they have been obstructed and largely unsuccessful.
USDA is seeking public comments on the proposed rule, including insight on who should be considered “market vulnerable individuals.” The comment period ends in 60 days, on December 2, 2022. Submit your comment as an individual or on behalf of an organization here.
Click here to read more about needed livestock consolidation and concentration reforms on the horizon.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: https://sustainableagriculture.net