FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra says the USDA should try again on its proposed rules that would amend federal protections for independent farmers and ranchers in dealings with large meatpackers.
In a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue, Chopra said the proposed changes “would make a bad situation even worse.” USDA rules excluded an Obama administration proposal that would have helped livestock producers win lawsuits against larger agricultural conglomerates. Critics of the proposed rule say it would allow meatpacker discrimination to continue against industry suppliers.
“Rather than spelling out for farmers which specific abusive practices are illegal, USDA did the opposite and made it clearer for incumbent packers and processors when it’s legally justifiable to use abusive practices,” said Chopra, who is one of two Democrats sitting on the commission.
Chopra says the rules fail to address consolidation in the meat industry, which leaves farmers with fewer choices on where to sell their animals. Cattle, pork, and chicken slaughter are controlled in the U.S. by just four companies.
The FTC polices business competition, including certain agricultural mergers.