The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will be moving forward with efforts to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act. USDA will be undertaking three initiatives to support the enhancement of the 100-year-old law. Issues within the meat sector were exposed during the disruptions created during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Packers and Stockyards Act is a vital tool for protecting farmers and ranchers from excessive concentration and unfair, deceptive practices in the poultry, hog, and cattle markets, but the law is 100 years old and needs to take into account modern market dynamics,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. “It should not be used as a safe harbor for bad actors. The process we’re beginning today will seek to strengthen the fairness and resiliency of livestock markets on behalf of farmers, ranchers and growers.”
USDA intends to propose a series of rule changes to better protect producers from anti-competitive practices within the sector. Efforts will be undertaken to enable better enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act in identifying deceptive practices and preferential treatment. USDA will also be proposing a new poultry grower tournament system rule. The process for bringing an enforcement action will also be adjusted eliminating the need for a complainant to demonstrate harm to competition. USDA has indicated that the planned proposals will help ensure fairness in the market for farmers and ranchers.
Groups such as the National Farmers Union have welcomed the proposed changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act. However, not all agricultural organizations are pleased with the potential adjustments. In a statement, North American Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts indicated the proposals will negatively impact the industry. “Should these proposals be implemented, they will limit producers’ ability to market their livestock the way they see fit and will lead to costly, specious lawsuits,” said Potts.