USDA To Issue Rule On Fair Play In Livestock Sales

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Activists say farmers are

outmuscled by big packers who

dominate meat processing.

The U.S. government will soon propose rules to bar meat packers from unfairly favouring big cattle feedlots and to give poultry producers more leverage, two small-farm groups said.

The proposal would modify Agriculture Department guidelines on fair play in livestock and poultry sales. Activists say farmers are outmuscled by big packers who dominate meat processing. The 2008 farm law required action on the issue.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told agribusiness lobbyists May 25 that changes to marketing rules would be proposed in June but did not specify them. He said the changes would allow USDA to “do a better job of responding to some of the complaints we’ve heard” from farmers.

A spokesman for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said, “we’ve been waiting and waiting” for the update to USDA’s application of the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act.

Under the 2008 farm law, USDA is required to issue regulations to:

Prevent packers from price discrimination in buying livestock. Farm activists say small and medium-size producers do not get as good a price as big producers.

Give poultry producers the right to refuse arbitration in a contract dispute and take the issue to court.

Require poultry processors to warn producers if they will delay delivery of a new flock of birds.

Mandate poultry processors to tell producers in advance of improvements that will be required in feeding houses.

Give swine and poultry producers a reasonable amount of time to correct problems that could lead to termination of a production contract.

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