President Joe Biden plans to direct the Agriculture Department to take actions to curb the market power of agribusiness giants, including by enabling farmers to repair their high-tech machinery.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that USDA will “engage in a series of rule-makings to increase competition in agricultural industries, to boost farmers' and ranchers' earnings, fight back against abuses of power by giant agribusiness corporations and give farmers the right to repair their own equipment how they like.”
The "right to repair" issue was in the platforms of many of the Democratic presidential candidates leading up to the 2020 elections and has also been on the agenda of state legislatures across the country.
Stephanie See, director of state government relations for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, said the organization has "not seen the Executive Order, so we cannot comment on it.
"With respect to a farmer's 'right to repair,' equipment manufacturers support a farmer's right to repair his or her own equipment," she said. "Our industry provides diagnostic guides, service manuals, and other tools and information for repairs and maintenance. We are proud of the work our industry does to protect our planet and safeguard our customers' well-being, and will never compromise on safety and environmental protections.”
The order will also call on USDA to “develop a plan to increase opportunities for farmers to access markets and receive a fair return,” Psaki said, “including supporting alternative food distribution systems, like farmers markets, and developing standards and labels that consumers can choose to buy products that treat farmers and agricultural workers fairly.”
Psaki’s announcement comes after media reports in recent days citing administration sources suggesting an order was coming to broadly address competition, including a look at enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and “Product of the USA” meat labels.
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In June, USDA announced plans to write new regulations strengthening PSA enforcement, including a rule to offer greater clarity on what constitutes “unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences, and unjust prejudices.” Another rule is expected to address the “tournament” system in poultry production. Meatpackers reacted with concern, with the leader of the North American Meat Institute — CEO Julie Anna Potts — saying the group “will continue to oppose unnecessary and burdensome government intervention in livestock markets.”
USDA has also previously announced plans to address “Product of the USA” concerns. On Friday USDA said it plans to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of the use of “Product of the USA” declarations on meat labels. That declaration came as part of a broader Federal Trade Commission action on declaration of origin claims. USDA said it plans to launch a rulemaking process following a study of the issue.
Livestock producer groups had previously expressed frustration that the existing label language allowed foreign beef processed in the U.S. to bear a “product of the USA” label, something Psaki said she personally found “a little outrageous.”
Story updated at 4:30 p.m. to include AEM statement.
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