In October 2017, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue withdrew the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, which were designed to protect small farmers from abuses at the hands of big agribusiness. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the rules at the end of 2016 to protect independent farmers from “unfair business practices, including bad faith breaches of contract, retaliatory actions, and opaque pricing schemes.” The rules, which were in part mandated by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill, sought to define “conduct USDA considers to be unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive,” and to make it easier for farmers to take advantage of the protections provided by the Packers and Stockyards Act in court. We filed suit to defend the interests of small farmers.

Under the leadership of Secretary Perdue, the Department of Agriculture has, like many other agencies in the Trump Administration, set policies designed to favor big business and corporate interests. The Farmer Fair Practices Rules were an important step in empowering independent and contract farmers, who share the market with big agribusiness. The Department’s decision to rescind the rules removes these protections and places yet another thumb on the scale in favor of large corporate interests in an industry rife with abusive business practices.

On behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets, which advocates for independent and contract farmers across the country, and individual ranchers and farmers, we filed suit to have the Farmer Fair Practices Rules reinstated. Our case asks the Court to vacate the arbitrary and capricious withdrawal of the rules and to compel USDA and Secretary Perdue to comply with their statutorily-mandated duty to issue certain regulations defining unfair conduct under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Our petition for review has been fully briefed before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and we are awaiting the Court’s decision.

June 18, 2008

Congress enacted the 2008 Farm Bill, mandating USDA issue specific regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act within two years.

The Department began conducting public meetings and collecting data to support the rulemaking.

June 22, 2010

The agency issued the proposed regulations.

However, language included in the appropriations act for fiscal years 2012 through 2015 prevented the department from finalizing the regulations.

December 20, 2016

USDA published the Farmer Fair Practices Rules.

The Department published both an Interim Final Rule and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement the rules as required by the 2008 Farm Bill and to provide further instruction on the meaning of the Packers & Stockyards Act.

October 18, 2017

The Department withdrew the Farmer Fair Practices Rules.

The Department abandoned the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and rescinded the Interim Final Rule, arguing it should have solicited an additional round of comment.

December 14, 2017

We filed a petition for review on behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets, challenging the Department’s decision to withdraw the Farmer Fair Practices Rules.

September 26, 2018

After full briefing on the merits, we argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

We continue to await the Court’s decision.