North Dakota Farmers Union praised the release today of Farmer Fair Practices Rules that aim to provide livestock producers and poultry growers with contract protections against unfair or discriminatory practices.

“These rules will provide needed transparency for families that have fallen victim in the marketplace to fraudulent and anti-competitive practices, especially those in heavily concentrated ag markets,” said NDFU President Mark Watne.

Earlier this year, USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration submitted to the Office of Management and Budget the interim final rule that gives producers protection against unfair or discriminatory contract practices, and two proposed rules that provide oversight for pricing and payment practices.

“These rules have been in the works for years,” said Watne. “But powerful meatpacking interests have always swayed Congress from implementing the rules – up until now.”

The 2008 Farm Bill sought to mitigate abusive contracting and marketing practices in the highly concentrated livestock and poultry sectors. Yet lawmakers repeatedly blocked USDA from fully implementing the law through an annual appropriations rider. Late last year, that rider was omitted from the congressional appropriations omnibus bill.

“These rules are important to level the playing field between corporations and families who raise livestock under contract, especially in our hog and poultry industries where a handful of companies control the market,” Watne said. “There is no true price discovery in a concentrated system because little or no competition for a product exists. That affects the price farmers receive for that same product or the price they can negotiate.

“We are pleased the rules are moving forward and I strongly encourage livestock producers to comment on these safeguards.”