Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) submitted public comments on a rule that the Secretary of Agriculture would use to determine whether or not a corporate practice would hinder fair competition in agriculture and livestock markets. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) proposed rule regarding enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) seeks to clarify how the PSA is interpreted and enforced.
Download: OCM Public Comments on the Proposed Rule: Undue and Unreasonable Preferences and Advantages Under the Packers and Stockyards Act
OCM disagrees with the proposed rule’s inadequate criteria, and demands the reimplementation of protections for producers that were included in the 2016 version, particularly those regarding the USDA’s own interpretation of competitive harm. OCM urges AMS to heed the purpose and intent of the Packers and Stockyards Act and close loopholes in the law that have allowed anti-competitive practices to become customary in the industry.
In its comments, OCM calls for AMS to restore the main intent of the PSA, which is to protect agricultural producers from undue harm. OCM stresses the importance of removing the requirement that producers must show industrywide competitive harm when seeking action on reported violations to the PSA. “Nowhere in past enforcement of the PSA is a failure to protect producers more evident than in the repeated requirement for a producer to prove industrywide competitive harm,” OCM’s comments state, adding further that, “requiring a producer to prove competitive harm, in itself, is a form of competitive harm.”
OCM demands reinstating language from the 2016 version of the rule outlining specific unfair practices, calling for protections for producers from retaliation by meatpacking companies. “By not specifically addressing retaliatory action in this version of the rules, AMS is clearly abandoning producers to be at the mercy of unfair and vindictive treatment at the hands of the packers, contractors, and dealers,” OCM argues.