Today 62 organizations sent a letter to President Biden expressing concern “that the pace of USDA’s progress on its [Packers and Stockyards] Act rulemakings could put them in jeopardy.”
President Biden’s historic executive order on competition (EO) directed USDA to revitalize the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act by issuing new rules to strengthen it. The P&S Act, a 100-year-old law protecting farmers and ranchers from concentrated monopoly power in the livestock industry, successfully leveled the economic playing field for decades before courts eroded its power.
“We support USDA’s recently finalized P&S Act rule to increase clarity and transparency in poultry growing contracts and the pending rule to provide stronger protections for market vulnerable individuals, but the most essential aspects of the work to strengthen the P&S Act remain in limbo,” the letter said. “USDA has yet to propose a more comprehensive rule addressing abuses in the contract poultry growing system and a rule clarifying USDA’s long-standing interpretation that it is unnecessary under the P&S Act to demonstrate industry-wide harm to establish a violation of the Act.”
The groups noted that the rules are “vulnerable to opponents of competitive agricultural markets” until they are finalized. Delays instigated by these opponents caused a similar attempt to strengthen the P&S Act to fail during the Obama-Biden administration.
“To ensure our nation’s farmers and ranchers can thrive, USDA must restore the P&S Act by swiftly finalizing a strong set of rules,” the letter said.
Noting that this administration “has done more to fight monopoly power and enforce our antitrust laws than any in recent memory,” the letter applauded the DOJ, FTC, and USDA’s work toward the EO’s directives to improve competition in the food and farm system, including USDA’s “partnership with state attorneys general to address anticompetitive practices by dominant firms in agricultural supply chains.”
Led by Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform, Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, Farm Action, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, and Western Organization of Resource Councils, the letter lists 62 total signing organizations.
“The Biden Administration has done more than any in a generation to take on corporate monopolies. As a part of this effort, USDA has taken many critical steps to promote fair and competitive markets for family farmers and ranchers,” said National Farmers Union President Rob Larew. “Their ongoing work to reinvigorate the Packers and Stockyards Act is essential and now is the time to complete the remaining rules.”