Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Competitive and Fair Agricultural Markets Acts to “correct deficiencies in USDA's enforcement over agricultural markets and provide needed protections for producers involved in production contracts for agricultural commodities.” The legislation would:

  • Reorganize USDA to streamline and improve enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) and Agricultural Fair Practices Act (AFPA) by establishing an Office of Special Counsel. Its sole responsibility will be to investigate and prosecute violations on competition matters.

The legislation would amend PSA two ways:

  • Strengthen producer protections by making it easier for them to prove unfair actions by firms without additional burdens of having to prove adverse effects on competition.

  • Give USDA authority to enforce the PSA in sales of poultry.

In addition, the bill would make the following changes to AFPA:

  • Prohibit unfair, unjustly discriminatory, anti-competitive or deceptive practices by a person who affects the marketing, receiving, purchasing, sale or contracting of crops.

  • Provide contract protections to ensure the production contract clearly spells out what's required of the producer. It would allow producers at least three days to cancel a production contract after signing it, and to share the contract with family members or a lawyer before signing it. It would also protect producers from arbitrary termination of their contracts, and allow producers to go to court.

  • Prevent discrimination against producers belonging to an organization or cooperative.