The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Justice (DOJ) recently launched an online tool designed to help farmers and ranchers submit anonymous comments about anticompetitive behavior in the meat and poultry industries.
The website—farmerfairness.gov—is part of an action plan developed by the Biden-Harris Administration to further investigate and address unfair practices that harm meat producers and consumers.
The tool consists of a simple, four-question form asking commenters to provide a description of the complaint or tip, species of livestock involved, and primary sector of business in question. Submissions are anonymous, unless contact information is voluntarily included, and will be reviewed by the USDA Packers and Stockyards Division and DOJ. Reports in need of further investigation will be forwarded to the appropriate agency.
Consolidation in the meat and poultry sector has been a topic of debate since the early 1900s when the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 was passed to address serious concerns about anticompetitive behavior. While the “Big 4” meat processors of today—Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS, and National Beef Packing—are not the only entities under scrutiny, their story illustrates the situation well. By owning 85% of U.S. meat production, competition among buyers has plummeted, decreasing profits for the farmers and ranchers who raise livestock up until slaughter. At the same time, consolidation can cost consumers when a few powerful players agree to keep prices high on grocery store shelves.
Through proper use of this tool, the USDA and DOJ will be better able to take action early, collaborate effectively, and enforce laws that create a fair marketplace for all.
For more information and to read the confidentiality policies, visit usda.gov/farmerfairness. Comments and tips may also be submitted via email, phone, or mail using the contact information listed.