On January 17, 2023, we supported Farm Action in submitting a comment to the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) – a sub-agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – in response to AMS’s notice of proposed rulemaking and request for public comments regarding inclusive competition and market integrity under the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act).

The Proposed Rule would take long-needed steps to prohibit deceptive, discriminatory, and abusive practices in livestock markets and give farmers tools to fight back against unfair treatment. We were pleased for the opportunity to support Farm Action’s work to build these protections. Democracy Forward sued the Trump Administration in 2017 for gutting similar protections for independent producers.

Farm Action’s comment supports the Proposal, and asks USDA to provide even more details and clarity about the expansive protections that the P&S Act offers to “market vulnerable individuals,” including agricultural producers subjected to discrimination based on the producer’s “protected class” (their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, or family status), and other producers vulnerable to abuse because of the highly concentrated nature of livestock markets.

The comment explains how the AMS can better protect livestock producers in monopsony – a market situation in which there is only one buyer – or near-monopsony conditions. More than 60% of the national poultry market is controlled by just four dealers – and fully one half of growers have a choice of only one or two poultry dealers to work within their area. Operating in monopsonistic local markets makes it almost impossible for growers to reliably make a living.

Discrimination against vulnerable producers is bad for the economy, bad for consumers, and harms historically marginalized and vulnerable classes of producers by restricting their ability to enter, compete, and make a living in our nation’s food supply chain.

Farm Action also supported the Proposal’s attempts to minimize deceptive and retaliatory practices which  are rampant in livestock markets. Large agricultural corporations all too frequently impose unfair contracts with huge financial risks on independent producers, and destroy the livelihoods of any producers who speak out against the system. 

Read the full comment here