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Press Release: RAFI Commends the Finalization of USDA’s Packers & Stockyards New Rule

—Years of advocacy by RAFI and contract growers pays off—

[Pittsboro, NC, March 5, 2024] Today RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) commends the finalization of USDA’s Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act. The second of USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Act rules to be finalized this year, this rule will strengthen the act’s protections against discrimination, retaliation, and deception in livestock and poultry markets. The rule makes explicit what should be obvious — that basic integrity is a prerequisite to fairness in the market, and that any market in which discrimination, deception, or retaliation is allowed is fundamentally broken.

USDA’s Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity rule bolsters key protections under the Packers and Stockyards Act in response to concerns that growers have been expressing for decades. Under the new rule, corporations are prohibited from discriminating against livestock producers and poultry growers based on protected class (including race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, disability, marital status, or age), as well as based on any producer’s involvement in a cooperative. 

As ProPublica exposed in 2019, these protections have been badly needed given the poultry industry’s history of discrimination against growers of color. The rule also strengthens protections against deception on the part of meatpacking and poultry corporations in their recruiting and contracting; RAFI has long documented the need for greater scrutiny over integrator claims made during grower recruitment. Finally, the act strengthens protections against retaliatory abuse by corporations against their contract growers for engaging in activities including lawful communications, assertion of their rights under their contracts and the Packers and Stockyards Act, participation in associations and cooperatives, and exploring or entering into a business relationship with a competing integrator.

RAFI Policy Co-Director Aaron Johnson, who has engaged extensively in advocacy for this and other strong rules to advance market fairness in livestock and poultry markets, notes:

“USDA’s Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity rule will be a vital companion to its transparency rule for the poultry industry that has just gone into effect. Growers now have more transparent access to information about the quality of inputs they and their competition are receiving, and if that information indicates that they may be experiencing retaliation, this rule will ensure that they have strengthened protections against such abuse. We deeply appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s commitment to see this important work through and are very grateful for the hard work of everyone involved at the Packers and Stockyards Division and throughout the department.”

For more information, please review this December 2023 press release detailing a letter sent to President Biden by 62 organizations. Also, please contact RAFI at the email addresses above with any questions.

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