Opinion: New USDA Rules Give Midsize Livestock Farms More Bargaining Power


Rebecca Boehm, Union of Concerned Scientists

via Lancaster Farming (PA) - Jul 21, 2021


Boehm is an economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.


President Biden on July 9 signed an executive order to shore up protections for farmers, directing USDA to issue new rules aimed at ending the exploitation of livestock farmers by corporate giants and to increase opportunities for farmers to access markets at fair prices and reach consumers through farmers markets and other alternative retail channels.


The order also directs USDA to develop standards and labels that allow consumers to shop their values to support fair prices and working conditions for farmers and farmworkers.


Major corporations have grown and vertically integrated to control almost every part of the broiler chicken supply chain. But raising broiler chickens to maturity is contracted to independent farmers, with more than 97% of broiler farmers operating though contracts with corporate integrators. These farmers are paid through a tournament system in which their performance ó and pay ó is evaluated against other farmers who have contracts with the same integrator, pitting them against each other.


Contract broiler farmers have called the tournament system unfair and exploitative, alleging that pricing practices by corporate integrators violate federal law under the Packers and Stockyards Act. For too long these practices have gone unregulated.


This executive order and subsequent USDA rulemaking will provide important protections for livestock producers.


Competition is good for businesses and itís good for consumers, which is why the federal government has a critical role to play in ensuring our agricultural markets are competitive and fair for farmers, ranchers, workers and consumers.


Prioritizing fair, competitive markets is government at its best...