Posted on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 | 3:06
Updated 3 hours and 33 minutes ago
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – The Biden administration plans to issue a new rule to protect the rights of farmers who raise cows, chickens and pigs against the country’s largest meat processors as part of a plan to encourage greater competition in the agricultural sector.
The new rule that will make it easier for farmers to sue companies they contract with for unfair, discriminatory or deceptive practices is one of many measures the White House plans to announce in the coming days. The US Department of Agriculture should also tighten the definition of what it means for meat to be labeled “Product of the United States” to exclude when animals are raised in other countries and simply processed in the United States.
Some farmer advocacy groups have been pushing for these changes for several years, but Congress and the meat processing industry have resisted the changes in the past. A USDA official familiar with the White House plan said an executive order is expected to be announced later this week, which will pave the way for the new rules.
The regulations that will make it easier for farmers to bring complaints under the Slaughterhouses and Stockyards Act are similar to the one the Trump administration killed four years ago. This rule was first proposed in 2010.
Currently, several court rulings have interpreted federal law as saying that a farmer must prove that a company’s actions hurt competition throughout the industry before a lawsuit can go ahead. the front. The new rule would lighten this heavy burden of proof.
Chicken and pork producers, for example, often have to enter into long-term contracts with companies like Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride that farmers say lock them into deals that set their pay at unprofitable levels and keep them in the dark. force them to go into deep debt.
Previously, the big meat companies have defended the contract system as being fair which calls on the farmers to provide the barns and the labor to raise chickens while the companies provide the chicks, food and the expertise to help raise birds. When the previous rule was removed in 2017, the National Chicken Council trade group said it would have opened the industry to a flood of “frivolous and costly litigation.”
The USDA also plans to review the definition of what it means for meat to be labeled “Product of the United States” under its rules. Currently, companies are allowed to use this label whenever meat is processed in the United States, even if the animals were born and raised in another country. USDA officials say today most of the grass-fed beef labeled as domestically produced actually comes from imported cattle. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said he wants this label to accurately reflect what consumers expect when they read it.
The agriculture ministry also plans to invest in new local and regional markets, so farmers have more options for selling the animals and crops they raise. Critics said major meat processors dominate the market for cattle, pigs and chickens, making it more difficult for farmers to get a fair price for the animals they raise.
The executive order expected this week follows an announcement earlier this spring that the USDA planned to strengthen protections for farmers under the law and encourage more competition in livestock markets.