The USDA GIPSA proposal billed as bringing “clarity” to regulations enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act is receiving opposition from some prominent government officials, including a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission and eight state attorneys general.

Issued in January, the proposal’s comment period ended March 13. It sets four criteria for determining whether a packer, swine contractor or live poultry dealer has made or given “any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to a seller or grower of livestock or poultry.”

But FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra said “the only clarity provided by this proposal overwhelmingly supports Big Meat over family farmers. Rather than spelling out for farmers which specific abusive practices are illegal, USDA did the opposite and clarified for incumbent packers and processors when abusive practices are legally justified.”

The attorneys general from Minnesota, California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia, said the proposed criteria “are vague and thus, easy to use to favor either side in a dispute.”

On the other side of the issue, the American Farm Bureau Federation said the Agricultural Marketing Service’s new criteria “will go a long way in providing much needed clarity.” But AFBF said it still wants AMS to be able to consider that activities outside the criteria “might constitute an ‘undue or unreasonable preference or advantage.’”

The National Chicken Council said the final rule should “clearly state" that AMS must establish that the preference or advantage "causes injury or likely injury to competition” before considering the criteria, which NCC says should be “broadly encompassing of all potential scenarios and that the agency will rarely, if ever, need to consider other criteria.”

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