US to clarify enforcement of antitrust laws in meatpacking

Farmers, ranchers harmed by anti-competitive behaviour
calendar icon 26 June 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

Livestock farmers in the US would have a clearer path to bringing antitrust complaints against meatpacking companies for unfair business practices under a rule proposed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Tuesday, reported Reuters

The proposed rule is the fourth introduced by the Biden administration to beef up competition in the highly consolidated meatpacking industry.

Earlier rules would require fairer pay to chicken farmers, enhance transparency in poultry contracts, and prohibit retaliation against chicken farmers for raising concerns about anti-competitive behavior.

The rule proposed on Tuesday would clarify how farmers and ranchers should prove that they have been harmed by the alleged anti-competitive behavior of meatpackers and will better enable the USDA to enforce antitrust laws, the agency said in a press release.

"Entrenched market power and the abuses that flow from it remain an obstacle to achieving lower prices for consumers and fairer practices for producers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "Today’s proposed rule stands for clear, transparent standards so that markets function fairly and competitively for consumers and producers alike."

Farmers have argued that under current regulations, the bar for proving they have been harmed by anti-competitive behavior is too high and hinders their ability to seek recourse from USDA.

"Farmers have long deserved this certainty," said Sarah Carden, research and policy development director for Farm Action, a farmer advocacy group.

The proposed rule will be open to public comment for 60 days.

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