Washington, D.C. — Today the FY24 Agriculture Appropriations bill passed out of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations with a policy rider that prevents the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from “promulgating, implementing, or enforcing” its proposed rules to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act). The bill passed along party lines with a vote of 34-27.
The P&S Act is a landmark law intended to protect farmers and ranchers from abusive and anti-competitive behavior. It successfully leveled the economic playing field for decades, until the erosion of its power by courts in the 1980s allowed corporations to gain unprecedented control over meat and poultry production.
In response to the Committee’s action, Farm Action’s Chief Strategy Officer Joe Maxwell, a Missouri hog and sheep farmer, issued the following statement:
“Farm Action condemns the language of this rider in the strongest possible terms. The Committee is essentially stripping the USDA of the ability to do its most important duty: protecting American farmers and ranchers by ensuring a fair and competitive marketplace.
“Farm Action staunchly condemns the action by the House Appropriations Committee Republicans of inserting language into the appropriations bill that revokes the 100 year-old right of a farmer or rancher to bring legal action for an abuse they individually suffered at the hands of an abusive monopolistic meatpacker. This is a blatant act to protect the world’s largest corporations at the expense of America’s farmers and ranchers.
“We are grateful to Full Committee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro, Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Sanford Bishop, and Representative Chellie Pingree for speaking out against this language at today’s markup.
“The last time USDA tried to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act, those reforms were defeated through backdoor appropriations riders that ran out the clock. We can’t let this happen again.
“We call on the rest of the U.S. House of Representatives to stand with farmers and strike this language from the final Appropriations bill. If the House fails to do this, we urge the U.S. Senate to right this tragic wrong against American farmers and ranchers.”
Yesterday, Farm Action and 101 farmer, rancher, consumer, labor, farmworker, and faith organizations sent a letter urging the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations to remove this policy rider from its FY24 Agriculture Appropriations bill.