USDA Advances Economic Opportunity and Fairness in Agriculture with New Rule

Washington, D.C., March 5, 2024 – In a significant move towards promoting fairness and competition within the agriculture sector, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has unveiled a final rule under the Packers and Stockyards Act aimed at enhancing market integrity and ensuring equitable access to economic opportunities for growers and producers. This initiative, titled “Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity Under the Packers and Stockyards Act,” will officially come into effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

Crafted to address the challenges posed by market consolidation over the past three decades, the new rule targets prohibited practices, including discrimination, retaliation, and deception in contract farming. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack emphasized the administration’s commitment to eliminating these unfair practices that have marginalized producers and growers, denying them equal access to the marketplace. The rule represents a step forward in establishing transparent, effective standards for the contemporary marketplace.

The USDA’s action is a key component of President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in America’s Economy, marking a pivotal aspect of the broader Bidenomics strategy. This rule complements other USDA efforts aimed at fostering competition in agricultural markets, lowering grocery costs, and bolstering local and regional food systems. Among the anticipated benefits are enhanced economic opportunities for producers, leading to more affordable and diverse choices for consumers.

Key provisions of the rule include:

  • Prohibition of discrimination and adverse treatment of livestock producers and poultry growers based on race, sex, religion, and other protected characteristics.
  • Prohibition of retaliation against producers and growers for engaging in protected activities.
  • Restrictions on the use of misleading statements in contract formation, performance, and termination.
  • Enforcement mechanisms, including recordkeeping requirements, to monitor compliance.

USDA’s Senior Advisor for Fair and Competitive Markets, Andy Green, highlighted the importance of competitive, integrity-driven markets in delivering quality products and competitive prices. The rule is part of a broader set of regulations proposed under the Packers and Stockyards Act to increase transparency, prevent discrimination, and promote fairness across various scenarios.

This regulatory advancement underscores the USDA’s comprehensive approach to transforming America’s food system, focusing on resilience, fairness, nutrition, and sustainability. As the department continues to make historic investments and pursue initiatives aimed at equitable growth, the new rule is poised to make a significant impact on the agricultural landscape, reflecting the USDA’s commitment to equity and systemic improvement. For more details on the rule and its implications, stakeholders are encouraged to visit the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Inclusive Competition Rule website.