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USDA touts fairer practices for cattle producers, farmers under new rule

(Shutterstock/Alexandre Moraes)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — A new rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture would provide clarity for courts while ensuring fair treatment for independent cattle producers and farmers claiming harm by meatpacking corporations under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

According to the USDA, the “Fair and Competitive Livestock and Poultry Markets” proposed rule clarifies the interpretation of “unfair” under the P&S Act and would further the understanding of prohibited conduct. 

The USDA says the rule should ensure livestock producers and poultry growers receive the full value for their products and services. A fairer and more competitive market enables greater choice, higher quality and fairer prices in the processing markets, benefiting working family consumers of meat and poultry. 

The proposed rule drew praise from the Western Organization of Resource Councils and the Powder River Basin Resource Council, which say the new rule would help ensure fair treatment for independent cattle producers claiming harm by multinational meatpacking corporations. 

Independent ranchers and farmers have sought to breach a barrier to justice plaguing them for years. Previously, farmers and ranchers were required to prove that any individual violation of the P&S Act harmed the entire industry, a standard making it nearly impossible to hold meatpacker corporations accountable, a June 25 release states. 

The PRBRC and WORC say the new rules mark a pivotal moment in the fight for justice and fairness in the agricultural industry. 

“The USDA’s announcement is a significant victory for independent farmers and ranchers,” PRBRC Board Member Liza Cuthbert-Millet said in a statement. “These rules will level the playing field and ensure that hardworking producers have a fiar shot at justice when they’ve been wronged.”

Corey Hart, a North Dakota rancher and member of the Dakota Resources Council, says that while no one wants to go to court, farmers and ranchers deserve a justice system that doesn’t require them to jump through impossible hoops to be heard when they are wronged. 

“These rules will provide the necessary clarity and support to ensure that our producers are treated fairly and that anti-competitive behavior is stamped out before it can cause further harm,” Hart said in a statement. 

A public comment period regarding the proposed rule opened when the rule was published in the Federal Register. Per USDA, all comments on the rule are due by Aug. 27, 2024.