WASHINGTON – Improving fairness in the marketing of livestock and poultry is the focus of a proposed rule scheduled to be published in the Federal Register June 22 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. Developed as part of the 2008 farm bill, the proposal will provide protection to livestock and poultry producers against unfair market competition related to consolidation and meat and poultry companies that are vertically integrated.  

"Concerns about a lack of fairness and commonsense treatment for livestock and poultry producers have gone unaddressed far too long," said Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary, in his June 18 announcement of the proposal. "This proposed rule will help ensure a level playing field for producers by providing additional protections against unfair practices and addressing new market conditions not covered by existing rules."

The proposed rule announced today would provide the following protections:

Provide further definition to practices that are unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive, including outlining actions that are retaliatory in nature, efforts that would limit a producer's legal rights, or representations that would be fraudulent or misleading. Additionally, the proposed rule reiterates USDA's position that a producer need not overcome unnecessary obstacles and have to always prove a harm to competition when they have suffered a violation under the Act;

Define undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages;

Establish new protections for producers required to provide expensive capital upgrades to their growing facilities, including protections to ensure producers have the opportunity to recoup 80 percent of the cost of a required capital investment;

Prohibit packers from purchasing, acquiring or receiving livestock from other packers, and communicate prices to competitors; and

Enable a fair and equitable process for producers that choose to use arbitration to remedy a dispute.

GIPSA will consider comments received by August 23, 2010. Comments may be sent via email to comments.gipsa@usda.gov. Copies of the proposed rule and additional information can be found at: http://www.gipsa.usda.gov by clicking on Federal Register