Bullock on Proposed USDA Antitrust Rules: Somebody in Washington is Listening
HELENA – Attorney General Steve Bullock released a statement today in response to the publication of proposed rules by the United States Department of Agriculture to increase fairness and prevent fraudulent or retaliatory practices in the meatpacking industry.
Earlier this year, Bullock testified at the first ever joint workshop of the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Agriculture on competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. At that hearing, Bullock noted that the top four beef packers now process 85 percent of the country’s beef and the top four pork packers around 65 percent of our pork.
In announcing the proposed rules, USDA noted that many of the concerns addressed in the rule were raised at the USDA/DOJ workshops.
“When I traveled to Iowa earlier this year to represent Montana producers, I was cautiously optimistic about the process. After all, farmers and ranchers have been speaking out on the lack of competition in the marketplace for years. I think these proposed rules are a positive sign that somebody in Washington is listening and I applaud the administration for taking on this important issue.
While we’ll be spending the coming weeks and months visiting with producers to see what this will mean for family farms and ranches, I’m confident that aggressive proposals like this are what we need to make sure that Montana’s top industry can compete fairly.”
The proposed rule would improve market transparency and further define practices that are unfair, discriminatory or deceptive, including efforts by packers that would limit a producer’s legal rights. The rules would define undue or unreasonable preferences, like those based upon production volume. It would also address new market conditions not covered by the existing rules, which have been in effect since passage of the Packers and Stockyard Act 90 years ago. Copies of the rule are available on the USDA’s website.
At the workshop, held outside Des Moines in March, Bullock presented written comments outlining major areas of concern in agricultural markets. Those comments were co-signed by 16 other states and are available online.
The proposed rules have been praised across many sectors of the industry with the American Farm Bureau Federation saying they would “level the playing field” and R-CALF USA calling them “bold and absolutely essential.”
Montana will also be represented at the USDA/DOJ workshop in Fort Collins, CO, August 27th which will focus on the livestock industry.