Farmer Fair Practices Rules Under Review, Open for More Comments

The new Farmer Fair Practices Rules, proposed by Obama Administration, would help ensure that independent farmers and ranchers are treated fairly by corporate meatpackers. The new administration, however, is taking a look at these protections.

On December 14, 2016, the Grains Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) announced the Farmer Fair Practices Rules. The rules contain:

  • An interim final rule on competitive injury,
  • A proposed rule on unfair practices and unreasonable preference, and
  • A proposed rule on the tournament system and poultry.

“WORC is especially glad to see that the final rules make it clear that a producer harmed by unfair practices does not have to demonstrate harm to the entire industry to win in court,” said Mabel Dobbs, a rancher from Weiser, Idaho, and member of WORC, when the rules were released in December. “This standard is nearly impossible for an individual rancher to meet and was not what Congress intended when it passed the Packers and Stockyards Act.”

More Comments on the Farmer Fair Practices Rules

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration delayed implementation of the rules and extended the comment period. Now, the rules will not go into effect until October 19. In addition, GIPSA opened another round of comments on whether USDA should:

  1. Let the rule become effective,
  2. Suspend the rule indefinitely,
  3. Delay the effective date of the rule further, or
  4. Withdraw the rule.

Comments are due June 12, 2017.

The rules are important to independent ranchers because four meatpackers control over 85 percent of the beef market. This control enables the packers to dictate the terms of production, marketing and pricing for cattle producers.

“The rancher needs access to the courts when meatpackers step over the line,” Dobbs said. “This rule will help restore that.”

At least, it will if it goes into effect.

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