Tester Statement on Final Packers and Stockyards Undue Preference Rule

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the final Packers and Stockyards undue preference rule:

“This rule is a slap in the face to America’s family ranchers and poultry farmers, and it is a serious setback in the fight against corporate consolidation in agriculture that threatens America’s food supply chain and the livelihoods of thousands of Montanans,” said Tester. “Months ago, Senator Chuck Grassley and I urged USDA to revise this rule so that it would provide producers with the long overdue protections against retaliation and predatory practices intended by the Packers and Stockyards Act. Unfortunately, USDA sided with corporations rather than America’s farmers and ranchers, so it’s essential that Congress step in and pass legislation that will safeguard rural America’s economy and way of life.”

This Agricultural Marketing Service rule was required by the 2008 Farm Bill, which obligated the USDA to implement regulations to establish criteria that the Secretary of Agriculture would use in determining whether an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage has occurred in violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act has been notoriously weak, in part because of overly broad statutory terms that this rule was intended to clarify.

Earlier this year, Tester released his three-part Rancher Relief Plan to protect family farmers and ranchers and combat corporate consolidation in agriculture. These bipartisan initiatives include:

  1. Increasing interstate commerce and diversifying meat production in Montana and neighboring states;
  2. Legislation to ensure fair prices at the farm gate from large packers;
  3. And the first bipartisan Senate push for mandatory Country of Origin Labeling since Congress repealed it in 2015.

Tester is leading the charge in the efforts to create fair cattle markets for ranchers across the country. Tester demanded Attorney General Barr investigate pricing fixing in the cattle industry to determine the impetus for the glaring price irregularities in the marketplace. Additionally, after Montana’s ranchers saw the steepest decline in cattle prices in forty years, Tester called on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to take immediate action to stabilize beef markets. And in order to reduce the processing bottleneck and get more food onto the tables of folks in need, he wrote a letter to USDA requesting a waiver for the state of Montana to allow custom exempt butchers to process meat for food banks.