Meat Industry Opposes USDA Anti-Trust Rules

Spokespeople for the nation’s biggest meatpacking companies have registered their disapproval over recently implemented U.S. Department of Agriculture rules regarding the meat industry. The rules, which were designed to update the decades old Packers and Stockyard Act in order to increase the power of small farmers when entering into contracts with meatpackers, were passed over a year ago. However, that year has been marked by outrage from the meatpackers industry and heated debate in Congress.

The new regulations would have vastly reshaped relations between meatpackers and farmers. The new rules would have made it easier for farmers to sue meatpackers (lowering farmers’ burden of proof and eliminating their need to demonstrate damage to the industry as a whole in lawsuits). In addition, the rules would have banned meatpackers from giving preferential prices to select feedlots.

Last month, however, Congress forbade the USDA from implementing several of these regulations. While the meatpacking industry praised that ruling, claiming that the new regulations would increase prices and costs, they incurred the scorn of farmers and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who said in an interview, “I think it’s unfortunate that Congress chose to intervene in the process and prevent us from going further.”

The regulations have not been completely halted, however, and several provisions have gone into effect, including a popular rule that would allow farmers to opt out of mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts with meatpackers.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer