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OPINION

Rule fails to protect farmers from discriminatory practices

National Farmers Union
National Farmers Union logo

Due to unchecked corporate consolidation in the livestock industry, family farmers and ranchers have been subject to unfair and anticompetitive practices. But a new rule finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) falls short of providing meaningful protections from such practices.

The rule, which amends the Packers and Stockyards Act, outlines criteria for determining if a company has shown “undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages” for one farmer over another; however, as National Farmers Union (NFU) pointed out in comments submitted earlier this year, the rule not only fails to defend farmers ­– it also shields corporations from legal challenges to discriminatory actions.

Rob Larew

“In their relationship with meat packers and processors, family farmers have almost no bargaining power. Unlike individual farmers, these corporations have immense economic resources and political clout, which means they call the shots ­– and when they behave unfairly, as they often do, they usually face no repercussions," said NFU President Rob Larew.

“Farmers have been practically begging legislators to balance the scales and protect them from predatory practices ­– but for some reason, their pleas have been all but ignored. Rather than offer farmers the very basic safeguards they’ve been asking for, USDA’s rule will inexplicably offer even more power to meatpackers, further tipping the scales in their favor.

"The government’s favoritism toward corporations at the expense of family farmers and ranchers has gone on long enough. The incoming administration must reverse this harmful rule and replace it with one that actually protects farmers from unfair, deceptive and discriminatory practices.”