Proposed federal regulations aim to level the playing field for farmers and ranchers in dealing with big corporations.
John Crabtree, media director at the Lyons-based Center for Rural Affairs, says the USDA’s Farmer Fair Practice Rules are designed to improve marketplace conditions for producers in Nebraska and nationwide.
“They’re to provide marketplace protections for farmers and ranchers that raise poultry and livestock,” Crabtree says. “They’re to shield farmers and ranchers who raise poultry and hogs on contract from some of the abuses in the system that have been prevalent on the part of meatpackers and poultry processors.”
He says the proposed rules would help to create a transparent marketplace.
“Livestock markets are not fundamentally fair and competitive places,” Crabtree says. “Farmers and ranchers who raise poultry and hogs on contract get abused by very large processors. They don’t get treated with a fair hand.”
The USDA recently submitted the rules to the Office of Management and Budget in a move hailed by many ag organizations, including the National Farmers Union and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Crabtree says, “They’ve said for many years we should have more fairness, more competition, more equity in the marketplace so great big meatpacking corporations can’t just knock around farmers and ranchers because they’re smaller.”
Opponents of the rules include the North American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. They claim the proposal would raise costs for producers and for consumers.
The USDA already reviewed more than 60,000 comments as it considered the potential economic impact of the rules.