WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week that it decided to extend its deadline for comments to a proposed poultry contracting rule.

The period was originally set for Dec. 2 but has extended the deadline to Jan. 17, 2023.

The agency said the Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity under the Packers and Stockyards Act provides protections against prejudices and discrimination in the marketplace to promote inclusive competition in the meat and poultry industry.

“The proposal would prohibit certain prejudices against market-vulnerable individuals that tend to exclude or disadvantage covered producers in those markets,” the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) said.   

“The proposal would identify retaliatory practices that interfere with lawful communications, assertion of rights, and associational participation, among other protected activities, as unjust discrimination prohibited by the law. The proposal would also identify unlawfully deceptive practices that violate the Packers and Stockyards Act with respect to contract formation, contract performance, contract termination, and contract refusal.” 

Following its announcement, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) shared its support for the extension by the USDA while also asking the agency to proceed in a cautious, deliberative manner. 

“While we appreciate the additional time to submit thorough comments, overall USDA should tap the brakes on this rulemaking effort,” said Tanner Beymer, senior director of government affairs for NCBA. “This is a significant undertaking rooted in decades of legislative, regulatory, and judicial history. Stakeholders must be afforded the opportunity to holistically evaluate the effects of both this rule and those which the Department has suggested are forthcoming.”

Earlier in the week, a bipartisan group of legislators which included, 17 senators and more than 100 house members, signed a letter asking for a six-month extension so stakeholders can thoughtfully analyze the rule’s contents.