In 2023, we racked up some big wins on behalf of farmers, ranchers, workers, and rural communities. We also laid the groundwork for some exciting opportunities in 2024 to meaningfully reform our food system. With no further ado, here are a few of our top priorities.
In 2024, we’re going to…
Push Congress to Pass a Fair Farm Bill
With Congress’ deadline extended to September 2024, we’re working closely with leaders on the Hill to ensure the final farm bill reforms our nation’s checkoff programs, supports specialty crop growers, offers fair access to credit, reforms crop insurance programs, excludes the EATS Act and reference price increases, and more.
Pressure USDA for More Truthful Labels
Farm Action’s Truth in Labeling campaign gained some big wins in 2023.
Thanks to pressure from Farm Action and our allies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finally cracked down on misleading ‘antibiotic-free’ meat and poultry labeling. And at the end of 2023, USDA announced that going forward, all the agency’s red meat purchases would come from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the U.S.
Even as we celebrate this progress, we are keeping up the fight to stop imported meat from bearing a misleading “Product of U.S.A.” label. Following a 2018 petition filed by Farm Action’s founders and the American Grassfed Association, USDA issued a proposed rule in March 2023 clarifying that all products with the “Product of U.S.A.” label must be from animals born, raised, slaughtered, and processed in the United States. Farm Action supported the proposed rule, which would expand opportunities for American farmers and protect consumers from the deception of multinational food corporations.
We won’t rest until the USDA finalizes a strong “Product of U.S.A.” labeling rule.
Demand Stronger Packers and Stockyards Act Enforcement
The historic executive order on competition presented an opportunity to revitalize enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act), which for decades successfully leveled the economic playing field for farmers and ranchers before courts eroded its power.
In 2023, we engaged with the process of creating new rules to strengthen this landmark law. In January, we weighed in on USDA’s proposed rule meant to hold abusive meatpackers accountable for their widespread discriminatory and retaliatory conduct towards growers and producers. This proposed rule is still pending finalization.
Then, while we were glad to see USDA finalize a rule increasing transparency in the concentrated contract poultry growing industry, we urged the department to follow the Department of Justice’s lead and ban the tournament system altogether.
A rule that would ban the tournament system, along with another critical rule clarifying that farmers do not have to show harm to the entire industry in order to sue meatpacking monopolies, has yet to be released by the USDA.
In December, we sent a letter to President Biden expressing concern that time is running out to keep the promises of his executive order to promote competition in the economy. If these P&S Act rules aren’t finalized before the deadline set by the Congressional Review Act, which could come as early as May 2024, they could be easily overturned by the next administration or by Congress.
This year, we’re not easing up on the USDA until the department has developed and finalized strong rules to protect and empower this country’s farmers and ranchers.
Fight Anticompetitive Mergers
Unchecked mergers and acquisitions have led to an economy dominated by abusive, consolidated corporations. Directed by the executive order on competition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) faced this issue head-on, and at the end of 2023 released a final set of updated merger guidelines. Farm Action weighed in on every step of the process, and many of our recommendations and legal justifications can be found in the final guidelines, which should stop anticompetitive mergers.
This year, we’ll continue to monitor and advocate for improvements to the Hart-Scott-Rodino premerger notification rules, which FTC proposed to update in 2023 for the first time in 45 years.
We’ll also hold FTC accountable to those new merger guidelines, ensuring they are fully enforced in the spirit of the executive order. We’ll lean hard on FTC to block any harmful food and agriculture mergers and acquisitions — such as Koch Industries’ purchase of a taxpayer-funded fertilizer plant in Iowa.
We’ll continue our staunch opposition to the Kroger-Albertsons merger, which would spell disaster for Americans’ food access, retail grocery workers’ job and salary prospects, and farmers’ access to markets.
To truly restore competition to the U.S. economy, the rampant consolidation must end — and we’ll make sure FTC does all it can to make that happen.
Encourage FTC to Protect Workers
FTC opened the door to a pivotal expansion of workers’ rights in 2023 by proposing to ban noncompete clauses. Commonly called “noncompetes,” these are used by corporations to prevent workers from changing jobs, seeking higher wages, and starting new businesses.
Farm Action has long advocated for this ban, which removes a key mechanism of exploitation and corporate control over U.S. workers. We supported FTC’s proposed rule, which declares noncompetes an unfair method of competition and prohibits employers from implementing them.
We’ll continue to push FTC to finalize this rule in 2024, which will make labor markets fairer and more competitive, and even open up opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.
Support Farmers’ Right to Repair
All throughout 2023, Farm Action Local Leader Wilie Cade walked the halls of state capitol buildings across the country, educating policymakers about farmers’ right to repair their own farm equipment. For too long, greedy equipment manufacturers like John Deere have curtailed this right by forcing farmers to use only authorized dealers, resulting in long transports and exploitative repair costs.
In May, Colorado passed the very first agricultural Right to Repair law. In addition to enshrining farmers’ right to fix their own tractors, it allows independent repair shops access to the tools they need to repair farm equipment in their communities, giving a vital boost to rural economies.
Other states’ Right to Repair laws for farm equipment are on the horizon, and we’ll be there in 2024 to support them in passing legislation like Colorado’s.
Preserve Farmland for Farmers
For years, Farm Action’s blogs and interviews with the press have shone a light on the lax laws around farmland ownership that have enabled large corporations, billionaires, and foreign entities to buy up U.S. farmland. This artificially inflates prices and blocks farmers, who cannot compete with these entities’ access to unlimited capital, from accessing this critical resource.
To stop billionaires and corporations from plundering our resources, and to ensure our nation’s farmers can continue to do what they do best — farm — we have endorsed legislation that would keep farmland in the hands of farmers. In 2024, we’ll fight to get the Farmland for Farmers Act passed, which would ban new corporate ownership of farmland.
We’re seeing progress on the state level, as well: States including Alabama and Arkansas enacted stricter protections in 2023 around the purchase of their farmland, keeping it out of the hands of foreign entities. We’ll leverage these successes in other states around the country this year to build on that momentum.
Written and edited by: Dee Laninga, Jessica Cusworth, Angela Huffman, Christian Lovell, and Joe Maxwell. Concept by Angela Huffman.