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American Cattle Producers Grateful for Packers and Stockyards Act Wins

BILLINGS, Mont., March 12, 2024 – On March 5, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its final rule providing clarification as to what constitutes violations under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 (P&S Act) regarding practices considered retaliatory, deceptive, and unjustly discriminatory.

The P&S Act promotes fairness and competition for the benefit of livestock producers, growers, and consumers, and protects independent producers from the anticompetitive conduct of the packers.

This rule, titled the “Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act,” will be effective May 6, 2024. The rule addresses the following:

  • It clarifies that the P&S Act prohibits packers from engaging in practices that prejudice, disadvantage, or inhibit market access for producers based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, marital status, age, or on the basis of a producer being a cooperative entity.
  • It prohibits packers from retaliating against all livestock producers when, for example, they communicate with a government entity or official to ask them to address problems they may have regarding their industry; or when they assert their right to join or refuse to join a grower association; or when they communicate or cooperate with a person for purposes of improving the production or marketing of their products.
  • It prohibits retaliation in the form of a packer interfering in a farm real estate transaction or a contract with third parties.
  • It requires packers to keep records relevant to their compliance with the rule for five years.
  • It prohibits packers from engaging in deceptive practices such as making, modifying, performing or enforcing a contract by employing false or misleading information or omitting material information. Nor may a packer terminate a contract with a livestock producer by employing a false or misleading statement or omission of material information.

The rule is the second P&S Act rule finalized by the Biden administration. It trails the “Transparency in Poultry Grower Contracting and Tournaments” final rule, that went into effect February 12, 2024. An additional rule has been proposed and is under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“R-CALF USA has worked closely with the past three Administrations to encourage them to write the rules and regulations needed to properly implement and enforce the over 100-year-old Packers and Stockyards Act,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “We fully expect that this new rule will begin to reshape, reform, and rebalance the disparate bargaining positions between widely disaggregated livestock producers and the highly concentrated meatpackers.”

This rule follows a successful effort by cattle producers from across the nation in which they urged Congress to reject a harmful policy rider from being included in the fiscal year 2024 agriculture appropriations bill. The rider, pushed by the meatpacking lobby and their allies, would have thrown out existing rules, prevented future rulemakings and blocked USDA from making progress on the P&S Act.

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