SUPPORT FAIR MARKETS AND CONTRACTS FOR FARMERS AND RANCHERS IN LIVESTOCK AND POULTRY MARKETS Comments on the USDA’s Proposed Rule for the Packers & Stockyards Act Due November 22, 2010For more than 20 years the sustainable agriculture movement has fought to get USDA to enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA). Meat packers and poultry processors have for decades engaged in unfair, unjust, discriminatory and illegal practices while USDA looked the other way. These practices have caused immeasurable harm to family farm agriculture and rural economies. Finally, in the 2008 Farm Bill we won a directive requiring USDA to clean up its act. And in June USDA finally released a set of proposed rules that could make real improvements to the markets and to the livelihoods of beef, pork and poultry farmers and ranchers. The response to these rules by the packers and processors has been fierce. They have besieged Congress, intimidated growers who have submitted comments and spread much misinformation about the impact of the rules. We’re still in a very big fight. And we need as many groups as possible to submit comments on these rules.
This is a once in a generation opportunity to achieve economic justice in beef, pork and poultry markets.Take Action – Send a Message to USDA Email your comment to Tess Butler at email@example.com or submit your comments here on line. Tell USDA: 1. I support the proposed rule’s definition for “undue preferences” that require packers and processors to reveal and have a rationale for differential pricing or deviations from contracts for livestock and poultry. This measure does not prevent farmers and ranchers from receiving premiums for higher grade animals, special livestock breeds or other measurable qualities. This provision does not prohibit packers from paying a price premium for grass fed, organic, family farm label or other quality based niche markets. It does prevent packers and processors from practices such as giving premiums for large volumes of animals that are not justified by cost differentials, giving secret sweetheart deals to select feedlots, or providing special terms in production contracts that are not justified by any cost or quality differences. The rule must clearly end price discrimination against small and mid-sized producers by outlawing any price preference based upon size alone; 2. I support the proposed rule’s ban on packer to packer sales. This practice is a common means of sharing price information between packers and results in price setting and collusion. 3. I support the elimination of the need for farmers and ranchers to demonstrate a “competitive injury" prior to filing suit over an uncompetitive trade practice. Recent court cases have required farmers to show competitive injury to the market as a whole as a prerequisite to filing suit. The proposed rule clarifies that farmers and ranchers who bring an action under the Packers and Stockyards Act for unfair practices such as false weighing of animals, or retaliatory behavior only need to show individual harm. I applaud USDA for removing this undue barrier to seeking relief under the law. 4. I support the proposed rule’s provisions that clearly describe a number of unfair or deceptive practices by processors, including:
- interfering with a grower’s ability to sell their farm, by requiring large upgrades to their livestock or poultry houses after the grower has announced their plans to sell their farm;
- requiring growers to make equipment changes if the existing equipment is in good working order, unless the company provides adequate compensation to the grower;
- cancelling a grower’s contract or reducing the number of birds or hogs placed on their farm based solely on the failure of the grower to make equipment changes, so long as existing equipment is in good working order.