proposed rule

NCBA Calls USDA Proposed Rule “Direct Attack”

DanAgri-Business, Cattle, Economy

proposed rule
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new action on the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act). It says the 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. However, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) issued a statement against the rule and called it a “direct attack on cattle producer profitability.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the addition an “enforcement tool”.

“Today we provide an enforcement tool that I think will provide for greater balance in the relationship between farmer and integrator. All of this is designed in combination with the resources and investments we’ve made to create the opportunity for more new and better markets,” Vilsack said while announcing the rule Tuesday at the Center for American Progress.

NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane said in an emailed statement, “By creating criteria that effectively deems any innovation or differentiation in the marketplace improper, USDA is sending a clear message that cattle producers should not derive any benefit from the free market but instead be paid one low price regardless of quality, all in the name of so-called fairness.”

The proposed rule would provide clarity regarding the interpretation of “unfair” for the USDA, courts, and private parties to clarify what conduct the P&S Act prohibits. It would also provide a workable guideline on how the prohibitions on unfair practices will operate and be enforced.

The Department of Justice is working with the agriculture department on the rule as well. Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, joined Secretary Vilsack at the announcement and said the DOJ is bringing more resources to boost fair competition in the livestock industry. “That we can and must bring our partnership with the USDA Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement beyond poultry into beef and other parts of our food supply chain. That’s one reason why we are putting our money where our mouth is and hiring more lawyers and more experts related to agriculture,” he said. “These lawyers, I’m pleased to announce, will be based in the Midwest and will focus on both civil and criminal ag enforcement at the Antitrust Division.”

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet News Hour and The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.