The Farmer Fair Practices Rules, a set of three rules that provide very basic protections for farmers and ranchers, were released in December 2016 to address the most anti-competitive and abusive practices levied against family farmers by meatpackers and processors. Because the rules are being reviewed by the new administration, National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to finalize them.
“Chicken growers and livestock producers operate in an extremely consolidated agricultural marketplace, where lack of competition provides the major meat companies with tremendous power,” said Johnson. “And sometimes this power can be unfairly levied against the individual farmers and ranchers who have little to no market power. This has led to egregious practices that have no place in agriculture, and that are prohibited by the Farmer Fair Practices Rules. We urge the USDA to finalize the rules immediately on behalf of our nation’s family farmers and ranchers.”
NFU President Roger Johnson submitted public comments to the USDA, advocating for the agency to finalize the interim final rule on “competitive injury.” The rule addresses plainly restate the intent of the Packers and Stockyards Act to provide individual farmers and ranchers with protection from the most egregious abuses by meatpackers. In some courts, contract poultry growers have had to prove harm to the entire $48 billion chicken industry rather than harm to themselves when seeking relief from poultry companies for abusive contract practices.
“The competitive injury rule eliminates that burden so that farmers who have been wronged under the law can sue for harm only to themselves, rather than the entire industry,” noted Johnson. “While this won’t substantially change the industry, it will make sure that packers and poultry companies who violate the law are held accountable for their actions by providing greater clarity and desired consistency across the industry.”
“Granting family farmers these legal rights is not designed to encourage lawsuits, in fact, it will likely result in a more transparent and business-like relationship between farmers and the meat and poultry processing giants,” he added.
USDA is seeking public comment on the “competitive injury” interim final rule through June 12. Those interested in submitting comments can find out more information at nfu.org/supportfairpractices.