WASHINGTON — Food & Water Watch spearheaded a coalition formed with 23 other groups to urge Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act (P&S Act). Sent on Jan. 30, the letter addresses past grievances with the US Department of Agriculture’s governance of the law, and it requests that the agency issue firm rules that strengthen and clarify the act.
“The corporate abuses allowed under USDA’s current P&S Act regulations have contributed to a highly consolidated food and farm system driving record numbers of farmers and ranchers out of business - undermining local and diverse land ownership, polluting our air and water, and threatening public health in frontline communities,” the groups wrote. “Farmers and ranchers have been going out of business in record numbers, and the ones able to continue often have to work second jobs to make ends meet.”
Three major requests were made in the letter:
- Require transparency and structural reforms to the poultry tournament system.
- Strengthen prohibitions on unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences and unjust prejudices.
- Clarify that parties do not need to demonstrate market-wide harm to competition in order to bring an action under section 202(a) and 202(b) of the P&S Act.
Food & Water Watch noted that four companies comprise 83% of cattle slaughter in the United States, according to the activist group's report conducted in April 2021. Those four companies control 66% of hog market share and 51% of poultry market share, Food & Water Watch added.
“Today’s meat and poultry industries are more consolidated than ever. Years of ineffective, opaque rules and lax enforcement have gutted federal authority to maintain fair, competitive market practices, and farmers and ranchers are paying the price,” said Krissy Kasserman, Food & Water Watch factory farm organizing director. “Secretary Vilsack and the Biden administration must seize this opportunity to restore competitive, just and equitable market practices that level the playing field for hardworking family farmers and ranchers.”