USDA unveils new initiatives to foster fair and competitive meat and poultry markets

US- The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has ramped up enforcement of anti-competitive activities in the meat and poultry industries as part of the department’s role in the President’s Competition Council.

These initiatives include a US$15 million Agricultural Competition Challenge to strengthen cooperation with the State Attorneys General (AG) on the enforcement of competition laws, such as those against price-fixing.

USDA also plans to publish the proposed Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Rules Under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

According to the USDA, the initiative which was made public at the White House Competition Council safeguards farmers and ranchers against exploitation.

The proposed rule would prohibit certain discrimination against “market vulnerable individuals” such as producers in the livestock, meat, and poultry markets.

Retaliatory actions, such as punishing a farmer or rancher for reporting price-fixing, would also be prohibited by the regulation.

These actions include interfering with legal communications, the assertion of rights, and associational involvement.

The rule suggests recordkeeping requirements to support compliance, including the ability to inspect pertinent records, including those pertaining to policies and procedures, staff training and producer information materials.

The USDA is proposing these modernized regulations under the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act’s provisions.

“Highly concentrated local markets in livestock and poultry have increasingly left farmers, ranchers, growers, and producers vulnerable to a range of practices that unjustly exclude them from economic opportunities,” commented Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

He noted that the practices harm producers’ ability to deliver the quality, affordable food working families depend upon.

Earlier this year, The Department of Justice and the USDA pledged to enforce federal competition statutes more effectively, which safeguard farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers and growers against unfair and anticompetitive actions.

Earlier this year, The Department of Justice and the USDA pledged to enforce federal competition statutes more effectively, which safeguard farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers and growers against unfair and anticompetitive actions.

This includes the launch of the FarmerFairness.gov complaint portal for reporting suspected violations of federal competition law.

These actions are necessary since, in accordance with a report by the ETC Group, just a small number of businesses control the expanding agri-food sector.

The study examines corporate dominance in Big Food and finds that many agri-food industries are now so “top-heavy” that only four to six powerful companies are in control of them.

This leaves room for companies to “wield enormous influence over markets, agricultural research and policy-development, which undermines food sovereignty,” states ETC Group.

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