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Feds propose new rule to clarify unfair practices in livestock, meat, and poultry industries

Source: USDA news release

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced new action to support the Biden-Harris Administration's plan for a fairer, more competitive, and more resilient meat and poultry supply chain. USDA's Fair and Competitive Livestock and Poultry Markets proposed rule would tackle longstanding challenges around interpretations of unfairness and competitive injury for the livestock, meat, and poultry sectors. This will support farmers and growers, and continues President Biden's work to lower food costs for consumers.

Secretary Vilsack made the announcement during an event at the Center for American Progress showcasing the Administration's agenda to create more affordable and competitive agricultural markets. The event highlighted USDA's wide-ranging progress to enhance the Department's ability to enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act, including previous rulemaking and an enforcement partnership with the Department of Justice. The event also provided a look back at USDA's successful Investing in America Agenda efforts to enhance independent meat and poultry and other diversified food processing capacity; expand domestic, innovative fertilizer production; create a fairer market for seeds and other agricultural inputs; and support more robust and resilient supply chains. USDA also released a fact sheet highlighting its actions under the Biden-Harris Administration to spur competition in the agriculture sector.

Federal officials say the goal is "clear, transparent standards so that markets function fairly and competitively for consumers and producers alike." Image credit - Mark Stebnicki

"Entrenched market power and the abuses that flow from it remain an obstacle to achieving lower prices for consumers and fairer practices for producers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Today's proposed rule stands for clear, transparent standards so that markets function fairly and competitively for consumers and producers alike. With our whole-of-government approach to competition and resiliency, the Biden-Harris Administration is fighting every day to lower costs for American families and give farmers a fairer shake."

The proposed rule will better protect farmers, ranchers, and other covered market participants by making clearer how prohibitions on unfair practices will be enforced under the Packers and Stockyards Act. Specifically, the rule provides clearer tests and frameworks around unfair practices that harm market participants individually and unfair practices that harm markets overall. If finalized, this rule would better enable USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service to carry out its legal obligation to ensure fair and competitive national livestock, meat, and poultry markets and ensure livestock producers and poultry growers can secure the full value for their products and services.

"Farmers, ranchers, consumers, and smaller processors all depend upon the Packers & Stockyards Act to protect them from bad actors in the marketplace," said USDA's Senior Advisor for Fair and Competitive Markets Andy Green. "It's time to provide the regulatory clarity and simplicity needed to put an end to unfair conduct that harms the market or that harms market participants."

The proposal is based on USDA's extensive administrative case law and builds off of precedent established under other unfair practices laws. The proposal follows well-understood approaches to unfair practices and unfair methods of competition.

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register for public comment. Upon publication, the public can submit comments at for 60 days. All comments submitted will be considered as USDA develops a final rule. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register.

The publication of this proposed rule is part of a suite of USDA regulatory actions under the Packers and Stockyards Act to enhance transparency, stop discrimination, and support market fairness in the livestock and poultry industries. Previous actions include the Poultry Grower Payment Systems and Capital Improvement Systems proposed rule and the Transparency in Poultry Grower Contracting and Tournaments and Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity under the Packers and Stockyards Act final rules.


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