USDA to propose 3 Packers and Stockyards rules as part of regulatory agenda
The Agriculture Department will begin work on three proposed rules to support enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act, the 100-year old law that was originally designed to protect poultry and hog farmers and cattle ranchers from unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices in the meat markets, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release today.
USDA’s pending action was noted in the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions released today by the White House Office of Management and Budget, Vilsack said. (See below for links to the full agenda and the Packers and Stockyards proposals in the pre-rule stage).
USDA intends to take three actions related to rulemaking in the months ahead, it said.
First, USDA intends to propose a new rule that will provide greater clarity to strengthen enforcement of unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences, and unjust prejudices.
Second, USDA will propose a new poultry grower tournament system rule, with the current inactive proposal to be withdrawn.
Third, USDA will re-propose a rule to clarify that parties do not need to demonstrate harm to competition in order to bring an action under section 202 (a) and 202 (b) of the P&S Act.
“The pandemic and other recent events have revealed how concentration can take a painful toll on independent farmers and ranchers, while exposing working family consumers to higher prices and uncertain output,” said Vilsack.
“The Packers and Stockyards Act is a vital tool for protecting farmers and ranchers from excessive concentration and unfair, deceptive practices in the poultry, hog, and cattle markets, but the law is 100 years old and needs to take into account modern market dynamics. It should not be used as a safe harbor for bad actors. The process we’re beginning today will seek to strengthen the fairness and resiliency of livestock markets on behalf of farmers, ranchers and growers.”
“USDA is working to make meaningful investments and improvement to build back a better food system that is fair and equitable, more resilient against shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy, affordable food produced and sourced locally and regionally,” the department said.
“The planned P&S Act proposals will support USDA’s efforts to ensure fairer and more resilient markets for farmers, ranchers and producers. In the last five years, stresses and disruptions caused by concentration in livestock markets have impacted not only producers, but consumers as well. As USDA works to strengthen the resiliency of supply chains, enforcement of the P&S Act will be critically important.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a separate news release, “The Justice Department commends the USDA for the new steps it announced today to strengthen enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act to improve competition in our agricultural markets.”
“The Antitrust Division remains committed to vigorous enforcement of the antitrust laws to protect American farmers, ranchers, and consumers, and to ensure they all benefit from robust competition. We stand ready to work hand in hand with the USDA to use our combined enforcement authorities to pursue these shared goals.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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