Natural Foods Merchandiser

Proposed rules may help small meat producers

Small organic, family farms may now see a “bright spot on the horizon,” according to Bob Scowcroft, executive director at the Organic Farming Research Foundation. New rules proposed June 18 may help level the playing field for meat processors and producers by allowing increased arbitration opportunities and more efficient enforcement.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) are introducing these rules as new sections under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. The set of laws are also aimed at improving the reach of the Farm Bill of 2008.

The P&S Act has broad exclusions, making it hard for the USDA to enforce and even harder for the meat industry to comply. The Farm Bill of 2008 narrowed these regulations slightly, but not enough to get small ranchers and meat processors the pay and treatment they had before “Big Meat” came into the picture. The new proposed regulations would change the way the industry is run through clarification of conduct and or meat production business practices.

The rules “would clarify when certain conduct in the livestock and poultry industries … gives an unreasonable advantage or disadvantage” to certain meat processors, according to the proposal. The unfair practices outlined include breaches of contract and unfair time constraints on a producer. The rules would also include a more thorough arbitration process, allowing producers to speak up for themselves if treated unfairly and participate in the legal process.

“The lack of concentration of smaller, farm-friendly slaughterhouses is a major problem,” Scowcroft said. “Although the [new rules] doesn’t necessarily impact organic farmers directly, it’s a first step. Here are the regulations and now [the USDA] needs to implement them. We need all we can get.”

You can submit comments on the proposed rule to Tess Butler at [email protected] or at

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