North Dakota Farmers Union and National Farmers Union have always worked hard to ensure equity in contractual arrangements for family farmers. This last December, we had a great win with the release of Farmer Fair Practices Rules, which aim to level the playing field for family livestock producers and poultry growers.

It was a long time in coming. A provision for them was included in the 2008 Farm Bill that authorized USDA to improve Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) regulations. But lawmakers, until recently, repeatedly blocked the funding needed for USDA to finalize these protection rules for family farmers.

The interim final rule gives producers protection against unfair or discriminatory contract practices. Two proposed rules were also released that provide oversight for pricing and payment practices.

For years, livestock producers and poultry farmers have endured a heavily concentrated market with little protection against unfair, anti-competitive practices. This has led to further concentration in the livestock industry and a number of family farmers going out of business. Monopolistic practices, through integration and full ownership of food production systems, put family farms at risk.

The Farmer Fair Practices Rules do not fix all fraudulent practices in the livestock and poultry industries, but the rules are certainly an important step in the right direction.

Both producers and consumers benefit when markets are competitive and practices and processes are transparent. We look forward to thoughtfully reviewing the published rules and providing feedback to ensure the final rules work for family farmers.

Moving forward, the new administration and Congress need to keep these rules in place and appropriate the necessary funding to enforce them. They also should consider further enhancement to bring the protection that livestock farmers deserve.

This is especially important because equitable rules are essential for keeping a diverse number of farmers producing livestock for our nation’s food security.

– NDFU President Mark Watne