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New Livestock and Poultry Competition Rules Published

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Tyler Whitley, 
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, 
P: 919-621-0534, E: [email protected]

Pittsboro, N.C., January 13, 2020 – Today the Federal Register published a proposed rule by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to satisfy provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill intended to establish criteria by which the Secretary of Agriculture would determine whether meatpackers give undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to one producer over another.

While the rule does establish some criteria that could be beneficial to farmers and ranchers, the language of the rule is vague and leaves any benefits vulnerable to adequate interpretation and enforcement. Under this proposed rule, practices may be deemed a “reasonable business decision” if they are utilized throughout the industry, regardless of the deleterious outcomes to farm families. The proposed rule’s criteria are based on business considerations which make allowances for practices “that would be customary within the industry.” 

This proposed rule is the latest iteration of regulations that have been the focus of a decades-long battle for farmer protections in the face of ever-increasing corporate consolidation and power. As farmers and ranchers have stated time and again, the livestock and poultry industries are rife with abusive and exploitative practices. In its current version, this rule not only allows for “undue or unreasonable” industry practices, but codifies the justification of them in law. 

“The criteria laid out in this rule are heavily skewed in favor of large, transnational corporations rather than the farmers and ranchers laboring to produce our food. We urge the USDA to take action that balances the distorted power dynamics between farmers and corporations,“ said Edna Rodriguez, Executive Director of RAFI-USA.  

Notably omitted from this rule are criteria that would specifically prevent retaliation on the basis of race, lawful communication with government officials, or participation in producer associations; the use of the tournament system and its role as a means of retaliation; and the court-imposed requirement to demonstrate that action by a meatpacker has not only harmed the individual, but also harmed competition within the industry for a claim of injury to be successful.  

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About the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA

The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA mission is to cultivate markets, policies, and communities that sustain thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms. RAFI-USA works nationally and internationally, focusing on North Carolina and the southeastern United States. RAFI-USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pittsboro, North Carolina and incorporated in 1990.

RAFI-USA staff are currently working remotely. As we plan for how COVID-19 will change both how we do our work, and what work needs to be done, please know that we are still here. Our farmer hotline (866-586-6746) will operate from Monday-Saturday from 9am to 6pm. Stay tuned for more updates and information.
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