Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will invite the public to comment on new proposed revisions to regulations under the Packers & Stockyards Act in compliance with a 2008 congressional mandate by the Bush administration. At issue is whether or not family farmers have a legal leg to stand on when the largest agriculture monopolies bully them in the marketplace using predatory and retaliatory practices to either keep farmers in line or to drive them out of business.
USDA’s action complies with its commitment to a federal court in 2018 in response to Organization for Competitive Markets’ (OCM) litigation against Secretary Sonny Perdue and USDA for having illegally withdrawn two of the Farmer Fair Practices Rules that were filed by the Obama administration to comply with the congressional mandate. These rules were the market safeguards that OCM, allied farm organizations, and individual farmers and ranchers have been advocating for over a decade.
Today’s USDA announcement states: “This action would invite comments on proposed revisions to regulations issued under the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act). The revisions would specify criteria the Secretary could consider in determining whether conduct or action by packers, swine contractors, or live poultry dealers constitutes an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage and a violation of the P&S Act.”
In response, OCM issued the following statement:
“The fate of America’s family farmers is now in the hands of Secretary Perdue. Whether he will side with large transnational corporate monopolies like JBS and Tyson or stand up for America’s independent family farmers is yet to be seen. We have legitimate concerns about the Secretary’s motivation in light of his statement when withdrawing the previous protections that the abusive practices by these large corporations were moral actions that neither litigation nor regulation could solve. Perdue later eliminated the standalone Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) agency which was charged with enforcing the Packers & Stockyards Act, and transferred its delegation to the historically big agribusiness-friendly Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
Abusive market practices not only bankrupt family farmers but they destroy rural communities, local businesses and banks while denying consumers healthy and safe food choices at their grocery stores. All of us must be prepared to accept the Secretary’s invitation and issue our comments about the exceptional need for market protections.”