Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), joined by 19 other senators, expressed support in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for recent action by the USDA proposing new regulations to clarify and strengthen the protections afforded by the Packers and Stockyards Act for livestock producers, swine production contract growers and poultry growers.

USDA’s proposed rule, issued June 22, responds to a directive in the 2008 Farm Bill to clarify and spell out how the protections contained in the Packers and Stockyards Act apply and are to be enforced in livestock and poultry marketing and contract production and growing arrangements.

“Our action in the 2008 farm bill along with this proposed rule are designed to make clearer the protections and the prohibited actions under the Packers and Stockyards Act so that producers and growers receive fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory treatment in marketing and contracting arrangements involving livestock and poultry,” said Harkin. “It is also critically important that the final rules take into account the practical realities of livestock and poultry markets and contract arrangements, so I encourage all interested parties to take advantage of the extended period for submitting comments to USDA regarding the proposed regulations.”

The proposed Packers and Stockyards Act rule:

  • Clarifies the protections afforded to individual producers and contract growers of livestock and poultry by the Packers and Stockyard Act’s prohibition against “any unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practice or device”.
  • Specifies criteria for determining when a requirement for additional capital investment (not initially required or specified) during a poultry growing arrangement or swine production contract constitutes a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
  • Establishes criteria for determining whether a packer, swine contractor, or live poultry dealer has provided a reasonable period of time for a grower or swine producer to remedy a breach of contract before terminating the arrangement or contract.
  • Sets rules of fairness for the notification poultry processors must provide if they choose to suspend delivery of birds to growers under already-existing growing arrangements.
  • Specifies the criteria under which it may be a prohibited “undue or unreasonable preference or advantage” under the Packers and Stockyards Act for a packer or processor to discriminate or offer different prices and terms among various producers of livestock or poultry.
  • Clarifies requirements and rules to ensure fairness to poultry growers, swine production contract growers, and livestock producers when contracts include arbitration provisions for resolving disputes.

The proposed rule is published in the Federal Register of June 22, 2010, vol. 75, p. 35338. See information concerning the proposed rule. Read more.

Senators signing the letter, in addition to Harkin, are: Tim Johnson, South Dakota; Roland W. Burris, Illinois; Russ Feingold, Wisconsin; Patrick Leahy, Vermont; Chuck Grassley, Iowa; Kent Conrad, North Dakota; Mary Landrieu, Louisiana; Ron Wyden, Oregon; Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota; Jon Tester, Montana; Ted Kaufman, Delaware; Claire McCaskill, Missouri; Herb Kohl, Wisconsin; Max Baucus, Montana; Al Franken, Minnesota; Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia; Sherrod Brown, Ohio; Mark Udall, Colorado; Michael F. Bennet, Colorado; and Bernard Sanders, Vermont.

Source: Office of U.S. Senator Harkin