USDA Releases Packers and Stockyards Act Final Rule on Competition to Mixed Reviews

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced the finalization of the “Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act,” which will be effective 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

USDA said the final rule, Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act, establishes clearer, more effective standards for prohibited practices relating to discrimination, retaliation, and deception in contracting. USDA added this will help producers and growers that have suffered from increasingly consolidated markets over the last 30 years by enhancing market integrity and ensuring fair access to economic opportunities.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work from NFU and supporters of equitable livestock markets,” National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said.

The final rule comes on the heels of a successful effort by NFU and allied organizations to keep a harmful policy rider out of the FY 2024 appropriations agreement. Such a rider would have thrown out existing rules, prevented future rulemakings and blocked USDA from making similar progress on the Packers and Stockyards Act, according to NFU.

“While we still have concerns about the unintended consequences of the rule, we are pleased that USDA has addressed most of our significant concerns between the proposed and final rules,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. NCBA’s concern with the regulation has always been based on the rule’s unforeseen impacts on standard business practices.

However, Julie Anna Potts, President and CEO of the Meat Institute, argued the final rule does nothing to change competition. “These changes are simply an attempt to assert even more federal authority to regulate the equities of industry business practices, clogging the federal courts with every contract dispute,” Potts said. She stated that Congress never intended to give USDA such broad-ranging authority over meat industry contracts and practices, regardless of their effect on competition. The Meat Institute previously submitted comments to USDA outlining legal precedent and congressional intent regarding the rule.