WASHINGTON – A rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would undermine the intent of the Packers and Stockyards Act, according to comments submitted today by National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew.
Established in 1921, the Packers and Stockyards Act exists to “to assure fair competition” in the livestock, meat, and poultry industries and “to safeguard farmers and ranchers. . .from unfair, deceptive, unjustly discriminatory and monopolistic practices.” The rule in question, which outlines criteria for determining if a company has shown “undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages” for one farmer over another, does little to achieve either goal. On the contrary, it would provide few, if any, protections to farmers while shielding corporations from legal challenges to abusive and anticompetitive actions.
In a statement, Larew echoed the organization’s earlier concerns with the rule and urged the USDA to develop clear and specific criteria that would offer meaningful protections to family farmers and ranchers.
“There has long been a massive power imbalance between family farmers and the poultry and livestock industries, a fact that Congress tried to remedy nearly a century ago with the Packers and Stockyards Act. But the Act has lacked the teeth it needs to provide even the most basic protections to farmers and ranchers. As a result, they have been subject to discrimination, price fixing, predatory contracts, and other unfair treatment.
“We were hopeful that by more clearly defining ‘undue or unreasonable preferences,’ this administration was finally taking steps towards balancing the relationship between farmers and corporations. Unfortunately, this proposed rule may just make the situation even worse. Not only does it fail to safeguard farmers from abusive practices, but it may also make it harder for them to litigate such practices.
“The Packers and Stockyards Act is supposed to protect farmers from corporations – not the other way around. To comply with the true intent of the Act, the USDA must revoke the proposed rule. In its place, the agency should develop criteria that are clear and specific and provide family farmers and ranchers the protections they need and deserve.”