WASHINGTON, DC (CBS46) – As of Thursday, farmers and ranchers can now anonymously report potentially unfair and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry sectors using an online tool through the US Departments of Agriculture and Justice, according to a press release.
The new online tool, that launched Thursday, will advance the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain, by creating more competitive agricultural markets that are fairer to producers and consumers .
The agencies are signing an interagency Memorandum of Understanding to further foster cooperation and communication between the agencies and effectively process the complaints received through the portal.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said:
This new online tool will help USDA and the Justice Department address anticompetitive actions and create livestock and poultry markets that are fairer to our nation’s producers. I encourage producers who are aware of potential violations of competition laws to submit information to the portal so we can take appropriate action to create more competitive markets in the agricultural sector.
“When we talk about protecting competition in the agricultural sector, we are talking about whether a farmer or a rancher will be paid a fair and competitive price for their goods and labor. When we talk about protecting consumers in this context, we are talking about whether food will be affordable for everyone in America,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
“Today’s launch of farmerfairness.gov – a one-stop shop to report potential violations of our competitions laws – will allow the Justice Department and USDA to cooperate early, enforce the law vigorously, and ensure economic opportunity and fairness for all.”
Complaints or tips will go through a preliminary review. If a complaint raises sufficient concern under the Packers and Stockyards Act or antitrust laws, it will be selected for further investigation by the appropriate agency. This action could lead to the opening of a formal investigation.
Users can submit information with either their names or anonymously.
If a complainant provides their personal information, DOJ or USDA staff will only contact them if additional information is needed. To submit an anonymous complaint, users can provide information about the potential violation without including their names or contact information.
The meatpacking industry has consolidated rapidly in recent decades.
Meanwhile, farmers’ share of the value of their agricultural products has decreased, and poultry farmers, hog farmers, cattle ranchers and other agricultural workers may struggle to retain autonomy and to make sustainable incomes, according to the USDA.
Producers who choose not to use the portal can also submit complaints or tips about potentially anticompetitive practices by emailing PSDComplaints@usda.gov or calling (833) 342-5773.