USDA To Bolster Meatpacker Antitrust Enforcement

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated it will begin work on three proposals to strengthen its enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act. USDA said it would bolster Meatpacker Antitrust Enforcement in 2021.

The 100-year-old law was designed to protect poultry, hog, and cattle producers from unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices in meat markets, reported Capital Press.

The Packers and Stockyards Act is a vital tool for protecting farmers and ranchers, but it needs to take into account modern market dynamics and should not be used as a safe haven for bad actors, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday in announcing the proposed action.

USDA intends to take three actions related to rulemaking in the months ahead. First is to propose a new rule to provide greater clarity to strengthen enforcement of unfair and deceptive practices, undue preference and unjust prejudices. Second is to propose a new poultry grower tournament system rule. Third is to re-propose a rule to clarify parties do not need to demonstrate harm to competition to bring legal action against a meatpacker.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a statement USDA’s announcement signals the start of a lengthy process, not the conclusion.

“We don’t yet have language for proposed rules, and we don’t expect to see specifics from USDA for some time”, said Colin Woodall, NCBA CEO.

“But we are actively engaging with the agency to get more information and make sure that the needs of our members are front and center in the administration’s thought process,” he said.

In repose to the USDA saying it would bolster Meatpacker Antitrust Enforcement, NCBA will fight hard to ensure that any regulations created or revised do not reduce cattle producers’ ability to realize higher profits and make the decisions that are best for their business, he said.

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