Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated that in June, USDA will be publishing proposed regulations concerning business practices in the meat and poultry industries. Indications are the proposed rule will provide a more precise definition of what constitutes an anticompetitive business practice. This proposed rule was authorized in the livestock title of the 2008 farm bill. The bill requires USDA to promulgate regulations concerning:
• Whether an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage has occurred in violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act;
• Whether a live poultry dealer has provided reasonable notice to poultry growers of any suspension of the delivery of birds under a poultry growing arrangement;
• When a requirement of additional capital investments over the life of a poultry growing arrangement or swine production contract constitutes a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act; and
• If a live poultry dealer or swine contractor has provided a reasonable period of time for a poultry grower or a swine production contract grower to remedy a breach of contract that could lead to termination of the poultry growing agreement or swine production contract.
This proposal will be closely watched by producers and industry.
National Rural Summit Agenda — USDA announced details for the National Rural Summit to be held June 3 in Hillsboro, MO. The summit will continue the conversation about ways to rebuild and revitalize rural America with producers and community and agricultural leaders. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, and USDA’s subcabinet officials will participate. The summit will include six breakout sessions, entitled:
1) Building Critical Infrastructure for a 21st Century Rural Economy;
2) Expanding Opportunities for Rural Businesses;
3) Renewable Energy and Biofuels;
4) Farm Competiveness and Productivity;
5) Forest Restoration, Rural Recreation and Private Land Conservation; and
6) Regional Food Systems and Nutrition.
Poultry Competition Workshop — The Department of Justice and USDA completed its second competition workshop in Normal, AL, which focused on poultry. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “All players in the poultry industry deserve an honest chance at success, and that requires a fair, viable and competitive marketplace. Today's conversation helped bring a better understanding of the issues impacting growers on a daily basis and provided an opportunity to openly discuss some of the ideas that have been raised to address these concerns." A number of producers who spoke at the meeting discussed retaliation, required upgrades to buildings, lack of transparency in grower performance rankings, and the need for greater enforcement authority for Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). The next workshop, to be held in June in Wisconsin, will focus on the dairy industry.
Chicken Industry Thriving— The U.S. chicken industry is a “competitive and thriving sector” that benefits chicken farmers, poultry companies and consumers, according to a study by FarmEcon LLC. The study notes: “Intense competition among chicken companies leads to product innovation and lower prices for consumers. The vertically integrated structure of the industry has given it an advantage compared to its competitors and allowed it to respond quickly to changing consumer demand.” The study was commissioned by the National Chicken Council (NCC) and released prior to the Department of Justice-USDA Competition Workshop on poultry.
Mobile Slaughter Units — USDA announced it has created a compliance guide, “The Mobile Slaughter Use Compliance Guide,” for owners and managers of a new or existing red meat or poultry mobile slaughter unit who want their establishment to come under federal inspection and continue operations in accordance with Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulations. Mobile slaughter unit operators are subject to the same regulatory requirements that apply to a fixed (brick and mortar) facility. The guide includes the procedures necessary to receive a federal grant of inspection, unique concerns that may arise with mobile slaughter units, and links to regulatory requirements and resources. The purpose is to help small producers find processing in their local areas.
P. Scott Shearer