To the Editor,

It’s time to restore our best protection against the meatpacking monopoly. 

• What is the Packers and Stockyards act?

More than 100 years ago, the U.S. passed the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act) — the first law to protect farmers and ranchers from concentrated, abusive monopoly power in the livestock industry. 

Initially the Packers & Stockyards Act was very successful at leveling the economic playing field, but in the 1980s the courts began eroding its power, allowing corporations to gain unprecedented control over meat and poultry production. As a result, livestock and poultry farmers are going out of business and losing their farms at alarming rates, workers are subjected to low pay and hazardous conditions, and consumers are facing skyrocketing prices at the grocery store—all while corporations like JBS, Smithfield and Tyson Foods line their pockets with record profits.

• Strengthening the Packers and Stockyards Act 

In June of 2021, President Biden issued the historic Executive Order Promoting Competition in the American Economy, in which he charged the USDA to strengthen this landmark law. So far the USDA has published two very promising rules which will make important strides in strengthening the P&S Act, however, there is still a lot of work to be done and they are running out of time!

Currently, producers who have been harmed by unfair practices must prove harm to the entire industry—a prohibitively high burden of proof that protects monopolies from legal action. In addition to defining unfair practices and undue preferences, the executive order directed the USDA to clarify the law’s original intent by removing this misinterpreted requirement to demonstrate sector-wide harm in order to bring action for market abuses. 

With the election only one year away, the USDA must issue this rule as soon as possible or risk losing this window of opportunity! Secretary Vilsack previously failed to accomplish this critical task under the Obama administration. We need your help to make sure he is not allowed to fail again. 

Brad Trom

Blooming Prairie, Minn.