Earlier this month the Obama administration proposed new federal regulations that would help small livestock producers compete with the corporate powerhouses that dominate, and in some cases, unfairly squelch competition. The NY Times reports;
The rules could give farmers and ranchers new leverage in suing meat companies that they believe have treated them unfairly. They would end practices among cattle and hog buyers that may lower prices paid to farmers and feedlot owners. And they would set new protections for poultry farmers, who often must go deeply into debt to build the chicken houses needed to win contracts from processors.
“As this market has become more consolidated and vertically integrated for efficiency’s sake it lends itself to unfair practices and practices that are not particularly transparent,” the agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, said in an interview.
The goal, he said, is to promote “a fair and more transparent relationship between the folks on the farm and the businesses that are packing and processing what’s raised on the farm.”
The summary of the USDA's proposed actions is here.
I thought this statement by Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council was telling;
“We believe the majority of growers are satisfied with the way the system is set up now,” he said. “Clearly there are some who are not but we think they are in the minority and this set of regulations is clearly aimed at that minority.”
He seems to reinforce the point that the system is currently rigged to the advantage of already established, large corporations, and that it's very difficult for a small farmer to compete. One way for consumers to help small producers is to buy their meat at the farmers' markets in town.