This opinion piece originally ran on Agri-Pulse on March 1st, 2024.

By: Jeff Kippley, Vice President, National Farmers Union

The recent opinion piece by the President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) on USDA efforts to bring fair rules to livestock markets was not just inaccurate but also dangerously misleading. As a cattle producer and Vice President of National Farmers Union, I must address this.

The USDA is striving to modernize the century-old Packers and Stockyards Act for the benefit of family farms and ranches like mine. Yet, NCBA paints a doomsday scenario for the cattle industry while ignoring the crucial role of monopolized meatpackers.

While NCBA rightly notes the current challenges in the cattle industry, it overlooks the dominance of a few meatpackers that leaves ranchers at their mercy. This isn’t the free market NCBA champions; it’s a market controlled by a handful of players. With very little transparency, producers are too often left to take whatever the packers are willing to pay. This isn’t open American capitalism, it’s the dark market dealings of a meatpacker cartel.

The importance of the Packers and Stockyards Act extends beyond cattle; it’s about fairness across the entire livestock industry. A prime example is the completion of the “Transparency in Poultry Grower Contracting and Tournament” rule. Previously, poultry integrators could withhold crucial information from growers, impacting their pay and flock commitments and exposing them to enormous financial risk. The final rule now sets clear minimum standards that integrators must offer, thereby better protecting growers.

With only one of the anticipated four fairness rules finalized so far, focusing on poultry, it’s perplexing to hear claims that the latest rules open the floodgates for baseless lawsuits. This misleading claim underscores the importance of continuing the public review process rather than prematurely defunding it.

Another fallacy is that these rules would somehow spur frivolous litigation. The truth is, no farmer or rancher desires lawsuits; they simply seek a fair marketplace. Clearer guidelines under these rules, if completed, should reduce litigation risk by defining unfair and deceptive practices under the Packers and Stockyards Act. This clarity benefits not only farmers but also meatpackers.

Given the abundant evidence of price fixing and unfair practices in the livestock industry, it’s clear that maintaining the status quo won’t foster innovation, competition, or robust market oversight. It’s time to acknowledge the heavily consolidated and vertically integrated nature of the industry and enact rules that level the playing field for family farmers and ranchers.

I’m proud to support USDA’s efforts to bring fairness to livestock markets. National Farmers Union will continue to push for better markets and a more even playing field for all family farmers and ranchers.


Jeff Kippley of Aberdeen, South Dakota, was elected as Vice President on National Farmers Union in 2022. Kippley and his family raise cattle, corn, soybeans, and operate a tax business serving family farmers in their community.  


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