Case Highlights Importance of Growers’ Rights to Compete, Switch Integrators – as Guaranteed under the Packers & Stockyards Act

November 14, 2023

USDA referred case against Koch Foods to Department of Justice, which secured Consent Decree

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) extends appreciation to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division (ATR) for the successful prosecution and settlement of a case against Koch Foods for illegal termination fees. AMS referred the matter to DOJ ATR earlier this year, and DOJ ATR announced a settlement on November 9. This case highlights DOJ ATR and USDA AMS’s joint commitment to the vigorous enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and underscores the importance of growers’ rights under the Act to compete in open, competitive markets, including the ability to switch poultry integrators with whom they contract.

“Growers should not be faced with unfair, anticompetitive barriers to switching integrator, and I appreciate the work of our partners at DOJ’s Antitrust Division on this important case,” said AMS Administrator Bruce Summers. “AMS will continue to vigorously enforce the Packers & Stockyards Act to halt unlawful termination fees or similar practices that inhibit competition for growers or processors. Market participants should contact AMS if they encounter barriers to switching, are threatened with retaliation if they do, or otherwise face unfair or anticompetitive practices.”

On Wednesday Nov. 8, AMS announced it had finalized the first in a series of rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act. The Final Rule Transparency in Poultry Grower Contracting and Tournaments combats deceptive practices, to help contract poultry growers compete more effectively and better understand the terms of their agreements with major processing companies. This action was kickstarted by the Biden-Harris Administration under Executive Order #14036, “Promoting Competition in the American Economy.” USDA also recently announced the creation of a new career Chief Competition Officer at AMS.

More information on the full range of USDA’s competition initiatives is available on the AMS Fair and Competitive Markets webpage.

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