Vilsack to Make Major Announcement in Nebraska, Speculation it Covers Anti-Competitive Practices in Agriculture
AgDay 07/08/21 - Vilsack Major Announcement in Nebraska
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to travel to Nebraska Friday for what USDA is calling a "major announcement."
USDA says Vilsack will be in Omaha, but didn't provide additional details on what the announcement will be. The trip comes nearly two weeks after Vilsack and President Joe Biden canceled their planned trip to a Wisconsin dairy farm in late June. The anticipated trip was reported to include a dairy announcement. However, the administration switched gears, with Biden traveling instead to LaCrosse, Wisc., to promote a $973 billion infrastructure bill.
Jim Wiesemeyer, Farm Journal Washington Correspondent, says the canceled dairy trip left a sour taste for some, as USDA's talk of "big news" announcements hasn't happened yet.
"Nonetheless, USDA said Vilsack’s travel to Nebraska on Friday will include 'a major announcement,'" says Wiesemeyer. "In notifying the Nebraska news media, USDA said more details will be announced later. If I had to guess, and it’s only a guess, Vilsack will likely have something to say on cattle prices and transparency. Whether or not that will be big news, I will leave to others and any actual announcement."
As first reported earlier this week, the Biden administration plans to issue an executive order to fight anticompetitive practices and create more competition, two of which will have a direct impact on farmers and ranchers.
While the executive order is expected to be signed this week, reports say it addresses a farmer's ability to repair his or her own equipment, protecting livestock producers who contract with large companies, as well as the labeling of meat.
"As part of the president's forthcoming executive order on competition, stay tuned," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing this week. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will engage in a series of rulemaking to increase competition in agricultural industries to boost farmers' and ranchers' earnings, fight back against abuses of power by giant agribusiness corporations, and give farmers the right to repair their own equipment how they like. The president's executive order will follow through on a campaign promise by directing USDA to issue new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act, making it easier for farmers to bring in when claims stopping chicken processors from exploiting and underpaying chicken farmers and adopting anti retaliation protections for farmers who speak out about bad practices."
While details of the executive order haven't been released by the White House, Reuters reported Tuesday that President Biden plans to direct USDA to increase competition in the meat industry by creating a new rule under the Packers and Stockyards Act. The order would reportedly protect livestock producers' rights by clearing the way for new rules that would make it easier for farmers to sue companies they contract with over unfair, discriminatory or deceptive practices.
It could also direct USDA to tighten the definition of what it means for meat to be labeled a “Product of USA".
The executive order by Biden is also expected to encourage the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to limit the ability of farm equipment manufacturers to restrict tractor owners from using independent repair shops or completing some of the work themselves.