Today Farm Action submitted a public comment in response to a proposal (“Proposed Rule”) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). By modernizing certain producer protections under the Packers and Stockyards Act (“P&S Act”), the Proposed Rule would promote competition in the livestock, meats, poultry, and live poultry markets.
“Farm Action is encouraged by AMS’s continuing efforts to strengthen antitrust enforcement across our food system by reinvigorating the Packers and Stockyards Act,” the comment states. The Proposed Rule would significantly improve AMS’s ability to hold poultry integrators and meatpackers accountable for their widespread discriminatory and retaliatory conduct towards growers and producers.
Farm Action’s comment went on to make specific recommendations for the Proposed Rule to help AMS more effectively accomplish its goals. Farm Action believes the rule could be strengthened by:
- Specifically prohibiting discrimination based on protected class status.
- Clarifying that producers in monopsonistic markets qualify for market vulnerable status.
- Developing clear procedures for identifying additional groups that should be considered market vulnerable.
- Requiring that covered packers maintain necessary records to allow AMS to adequately enforce the Proposed Rule.
- Ensuring that the burden of proof for complainants allows protected producers to effectively bring cases against covered packers that engage in discriminatory or retaliatory conduct.
- Identifying specific practices that foster deception and abuse in these markets and ensure that protections under the P&S Act are broadly applied.
- Clarifying the important role litigation plays in effective enforcement of the P&S Act in the agency’s cost-benefit analysis.
This Proposed Rule marks the second of three rulemakings USDA announced in June, 2021 as part of their plan to strengthen the landmark P&S Act and reinvigorate antitrust enforcement. Farm Action submitted comments on the first rule, which focused on the contract poultry growing industry, in August of 2022, and looks forward to reviewing the third rule when it is announced.
Media Contact: Dee Laninga, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-450-0094