The Obama administration has proposed new antitrust rules for meat companies. Large meatpackers like Tyson Foods Inc. and Smithfield Foods Inc. would be barred from buying animals from each other and sharp limits would be placed on the companies' contracts with livestock suppliers.
"Concerns about a lack of fairness and commonsense treatment for livestock and poultry producers have gone unaddressed far too long," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "[It] will help ensure a level playing field for producers by providing additional protections against unfair practices and addressing new market conditions not covered by existing rules."
Farmers and their lobbyists have called for regulators to examine whether large packers such as Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, the biggest U.S. meat producer, control the prices they pay for cattle, hogs and poultry.
Under the proposed rule, meatpackers would be required to communicate prices to competitors. Sample contracts would also be made available on a USDA website, in a move to improve transparency, the department said.
The proposed rule will be published on June 22 and will be open for comment until Aug. 23, the USDA said. After that, the department will consider a final rule.