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Utah News

Agriculture Groups Speaking Up About Possible Discrimination Of Farmers

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Meat packing companies in Utah work with many local famers to prepare their products for retail. However, many agriculture groups are speaking up against a new USDA rule and potential discriminatory action they believe it could cause.   “Farmers have very little choice about who to sell their livestock to. There's a major power imbalance today between farmers and those with whom they contract and sell livestock to," said Aaron Shier with National Farmers Union. “We need good, strong regulations to make sure farmers are protected given this imbalance and to help reduce the imbalance that exists today.”

The United States Department of Agriculture recently finalized a new rule amending the Packers and Stockyards Act. The update outlines criteria for whether a company has shown “undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages” for one farmer over another. This could allow for meat packers to treat producers with the same or similar products witha different treatments or payments. Groups such as the National Farmers Union say the new language could shield corporations from legal challenges to discriminatory actions.

This will not only effect farmers raising livestock, but also consumers.

“Consumers are impacted by the consolidation that has occurred in the meat and poultry sectors. And there are several pending cases out there right now where there has been shown to be or there are allegations of harm to consumers and consumer prices due to the kind of practices that can be carried out at the moment by industry," said Shier.

The rule is not in effect yet said Shier, but there is a concern that it could negatively impact farmers.

“Farmers will not be as well protected, as they would have been from abuses, or potential abuse from industry from the processors and Packers, they partner with is they would have been with a stronger rule," said Shier.