The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday will release a new but stripped-down antitrust rule regulating meat companies that’s far less sweeping than initial reforms that ran into strong opposition from businesses and Congress, reports the Washington Post.
“I think it’s unfortunate that Congress chose to intervene in the process and prevent us from going further,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.
But Vilsack said the remaining provisions would help farmers.
“I think all of these steps we’re taking are important,” he said.
Under the new measures, meat companies are required to give farmers the right to opt out of mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.
The new guidelines also say poultry producers should give a farmer at least 90 days’ notice before suspending the delivery of birds. The guidelines also say it might be illegal if companies require farmers to borrow money to upgrade chicken houses as “the result of coercion, retaliation or threats of coercion.”
The other measures have been abandoned or changed into guidelines for the agriculture secretary to consider when judging if meat companies have violated a decades-old antitrust law called the Packers and Stockyards Act. The original rule also would have made it much easier for farmers to sue companies under the Packers and Stockyards Act for manipulating prices, underpaying farmers or other violations. The rule would have required farmers only to prove the company’s action harmed them rather than harmed competition in the entire industry. Numerous meat trade associations opposed the stricter measures.
Sources: Washington Post, Associated Press