24 Groups To Sec. Vilsack: Strengthen Packers & Stockyards Act

Rulemakings offer critical opportunity to protect farmers and ranchers from industry monopolies.

Published Jan 30, 2023

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Food System

Rulemakings offer critical opportunity to protect farmers and ranchers from industry monopolies.

Rulemakings offer critical opportunity to protect farmers and ranchers from industry monopolies.

Twenty four groups signed a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack today urging that the USDA seize upon an open rulemaking process to strengthen protections for farmers and ranchers under the Packers & Stockyards Act. The agency is revisiting inadequate farmer and rancher protections from industry monopolies in a series of long-overdue rulemakings. The letter was written and circulated by national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch.

Ineffective and outdated Packers & Stockyards Act rules have created an unfair market that preferences corporate power over fairness and competition. Passed over 100 years ago to limit monopolistic practices in the meatpacking sector, the act’s legacy has been tarnished by decades of corporate abuse. Lax antitrust oversight, vertical integration that concentrates corporate power, and tournament systems that pit contract poultry growers against one another have contributed to a highly consolidated food and farm system that crushes the competition the act was designed to protect.

“Today’s meat and poultry industries are more consolidated than ever. Years of ineffective, opaque rules and lax enforcement have gutted federal authority to maintain fair, competitive market practices, and farmers and ranchers are paying the price,” said Krissy Kasserman, Food & Water Watch factory farm organizing director. “Secretary Vilsack and the Biden administration must seize this opportunity to restore competitive, just and equitable market practices that level the playing field for hardworking family farmers and ranchers.”

A Food & Water Watch report found that just four corporations slaughter 83% of the nation’s cattle. The top four corporations in hog and poultry processing also dominate the market with 66 and 51 percent market share respectively. Meanwhile, a staggering 99.5% of all domestic broiler chickens are grown by contract growers. Letter signatories outlined three demands to rebuild competitive markets:

  • Require transparency and structural reforms to the poultry tournament system.
  • Strengthen prohibitions on unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences, and unjust prejudices.
  • Clarify that parties do not need to demonstrate market-wide harm to competition in order to bring an action under section 202(a) and 202(b) of the Packers & Stockyards Act.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

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Press Contact: Phoebe Galt [email protected]

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