Farm Groups Urge Legislators to Allow Changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act - Modern Farmer

Farm Groups Urge Legislators to Allow Changes to the Packers and Stockyards Act

A policy rider in a new bill could prevent the USDA from making changes to the P&S Act that many say are desperately needed.

Photography by Shutterstock

More than 100 farmer, rancher, consumer and labor organizations are pleading with the US House Committee on Appropriations to reconsider allowing the USDA to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act).

The groups are referring to a policy rider in the Fiscal Year 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The rider prevents the USDA from “promulgating, implementing, or enforcing” its proposed rules to strengthen the P&S Act.

The P&S Act is intended to level the playing field, promoting competition for farmers and ranchers. But it’s been notoriously undermined for decades, resulting in a handful of corporations running the vast majority of meat and poultry production, and using lobbyists to influence legislation. This consolidation of power and profit means that many meat producers are at the mercy of these conglomerates, which have come under scrutiny for price fixing in the past. During the height of COVID-19, amid supply chain breakdowns, beef and hog ranchers were struggling, while meat packers saw record profits

The Biden administration has released executive orders to look into the P&S Act and promote competition in the industry, and the executives of the “big four” meatpacking conglomerates have faced harsh criticism from opponents on both sides of the political aisle. The USDA has even proposed rules that would require poultry companies to be transparent about contract terms and increase protections against retaliation from major meatpacking corporations. 

However, the rider attached to the FY24 act would prevent the USDA from writing, preparing or publishing rules that could strengthen the P&S Act.  

In response, 102 groups have submitted an open letter to the House Committee on Appropriations, urging the removal of the rider. 

“This rider is an unacceptable attack on the ability of the Department of Agriculture to do its job: protecting American farmers and ranchers and ensuring fair and competitive markets,” the letter states. “Instead of carrying water for multinational meatpacking corporations, we urge the House Appropriations Committee to stand with American farmers and ranchers and reject any attempts to limit the Secretary’s authority under the Packers and Stockyards Act, or the USDA’s capacity to fully and effectively enforce it.”

Signatories of the letter include the Farm Action Fund, the National Farmers Union, National Center for Health Research, Center For Food Safety and Farm Aid, along with several state-run groups of independent cattle ranchers and farms. 

Along with the signatories, Farm Action’s chief strategy officer, Joe Maxwell, told media that the bill “is a blatant act to protect the world’s largest corporations at the expense of America’s farmers and ranchers.”

The bill passed the markup stage this week, with a 37-24 vote along party lines. However, either the House or the Senate could strike the wording from the bill during their individual votes.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bo Johnson
9 months ago

More proof that policy makers have no idea what’s going on in the real world.

Glenn Tart
9 months ago

Lobbying is legalized bribery for politicians; anybody else using bribery to accomplish a goal can go to jail.