USDA Releases Packers and Stockyards Act Final Rule on Competition

The Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced the finalization of Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act. The final rule will be effective 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

The final rule, Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act, establishes clearer, more effective standards for prohibited practices relating to discrimination, retaliation, and deception in contracting. USDA says this will help producers and growers that have suffered from increasingly consolidated markets over the last 30 years by enhancing market integrity and ensuring fair access to economic opportunities.

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew responded, “Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work from NFU and supporters of equitable livestock markets.” The final rule comes on the heels of a successful effort by NFU and allied organizations to keep a harmful policy rider out of the FY 2024 appropriations agreement. Such a rider would have thrown out existing rules, prevented future rulemakings and blocked USDA from making similar progress on the Packers and Stockyards Act, according to NFU.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association responded to USDA’s final Packers and Stockyards rule released Tuesday. NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane says, “While we still have concerns about the unintended consequences of the rule, we are pleased that USDA has addressed most of our significant concerns between the proposed and final rules.” NCBA’s concern with the regulation has always been based on the rule’s unforeseen impacts on standard business practices.

The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) members were also pleased to see the news of the Packers and Stockyards Act final rule on Tuesday.

Gilles Stockton, a rancher from Grass Range, MT, and leader in the WORC Livestock Competition Campaign Team had this to say: “These long-promised rules shall protect livestock producers from deception and discrimination in the marketplace. The packer cartel is so fearful that they will have to treat producers honestly, they are lobbying unscrupulous members of Congress to defund Packers and Stockyards enforcement. That tells us that these proposed rules are on the right track.”

However, Julie Anna Potts, President and CEO of the Meat Institute, argues the final rule does nothing to change competition. Potts says, “These changes are simply an attempt to assert even more federal authority to regulate the equities of industry business practices, clogging the federal courts with every contract dispute.” She claims that Congress never intended to give USDA such broad-ranging authority over meat industry contracts and practices, regardless of their effect on competition. The Meat Institute previously submitted comments to USDA outlining legal precedent and congressional intent regarding the rule.

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