Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Monday, February 20, 2006

USDA and Livestock Market Competition - Pretense and Deception

Last month, an audit of the Packers and Stockyards Administration revealed that they have utterly failed to enforce the very law that gives the agency a reason to exist.

The Packers and Stockyards Administration has become anything but an enforcer of competition in livestock markets – robbing farmers and ranchers of the best assurance they have that livestock markets will be fair, open and competitive.

Senior officials in the Packers and Stockyards Administration blocked investigations from being referred to USDA lawyers or the Justice Department and agency employees were instructed to create the appearance of enforcement activity by recording everything from routine correspondence and review of public data as “investigations.” Over 1,800 so-called “investigations” were documented between 1999 and 2005, but according to the Inspector General’s audit, 1,739 of those so-called investigations could not be traced to a specific complaint, producer, packer or other details that a true investigation would contain.

The Packers and Stockyards Administration perpetrated a lie, and disillusioned farmers and ranchers in the process. It is wrong for government to turn a blind eye to citizens’ concerns. It is worse when government tells citizens that their concerns are valid and, through pretense and deception, leads them to believe that their concerns are being addressed when they are not.

USDA has proven, again, that they cannot be trusted to use the considerable authority vested in the Packers and Stockyards Act to breathe life back into American livestock markets. Surely they will claim that new leadership at Packers and Stockyards, including the new Administrator James Link, will fix the problem. But they will not, and farmers, ranchers and rural communities will continue to pay the price.

Repeated calls for competition reforms from farmers and ranchers as well as the Commission on Small Farms, General Accounting Office and Inspector General have fallen on deaf ears at USDA.

That is why Congress must act to define the rules of livestock market competition and provide clear direction for USDA’s enforcement. Congress should move forward with reform now and prepare for a larger debate over a comprehensive competition title in the 2007 farm bill. As this newsletter is written, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) and a bipartisan team of Senators are preparing to introduce a comprehensive package of livestock market competition reforms. If Congress acts boldly on behalf of livestock market competition, farmers, ranchers and rural citizens will stand with them.

for more information on agricultural market concentration,
see -

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Everyone should call their Senators right now and tell them to support this legislation and call for a hearing on USDA's miserable enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards law. If you farm, if you ranch, if you live in rural America, if you care about good food, clean water and a healthy economy for your kids, tell your Senators make USDA enforce the damn law!


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