Mountaire Farms: Transparency rule will hurt farmer pay

Poultry producer Mountaire Farms urged contract farmers to oppose a pay transparency rule, arguing that it would make poultry farming more expensive and reduce wages.

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(Mountaire Farms)
(Mountaire Farms)

Poultry producer Mountaire Farms urged contract farmers to oppose a pay transparency rule, arguing that it would make poultry farming more expensive and reduce wages.

A Mountaire spokesperson said: "As a chicken company we have an obligation to our family farmers to make them aware of proposed regulations that are likely to increase food costs and have a negative financial impact on their business. With the opportunity for public comment pending, we wanted our farmers to have access to the information they needed to make an informed decision about whether to provide their own views on the regulations."

The company distributed letters to its contract farmers and provided form letters to submit to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that opposed the rule.

The proposed rule, announced in May 2022, is designed to protect “poultry growers and livestock producers from unfair, deceptive and anti-competitive practices.” The public comment for the rule was recent extended through August 23, 2022.

“Increased transparency is the essential starting point for modernizing our rules, protecting producers, and countering the damaging effects of concentration,” Secretary Vilsack said in a statement that announced the rule. 

“Today, with this proposed rule, we are taking a huge step forward, to increase transparency by providing the sunlight needed to ensure poultry markets are fair and well-functioning. And by ensuring that growers have access to the information they need to make informed contract decisions, we also are improving their chances of success, ensuring more vibrant rural communities.”

The rule is a part of a larger move on behalf of U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration that tied market concentration to higher meat prices.

In the press release issued by the White House, the administration acknowledged that some of the price increases have been driven by increased consumer demand, it also stated: “Just four large conglomerates control the majority of the market for each of these three products (beef, pork and poultry), and the data show that these companies have been raising prices while generating record profits during the pandemic. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration is taking bold action to enforce the antitrust laws, boost competition in meat processing, and push back on pandemic profiteering that is hurting consumers, farmers and ranchers across the country.”

Not everyone is against the proposed pay transparency rule. 

“Integrators have lopsided control over the poultry growing process, which creates enormous financial pressure and unfair burdens on America’s farmers. Modernized regulations will help address those challenges and allow growers to make better informed decisions by giving them more access to important information about supplies, stocking densities and disruptions. We look forward to working with USDA to create a more level playing field for America’s poultry growers," the American Farm Bureau Federation said.

Mountaire Farms, according to the WATTPoultry.com Top Companies Database, is the sixth largest broiler company in the U.S., having processed 57.39 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken on a weekly basis in 2019. The privately owned company employs nearly 10,000 people at facilities in Arkansas, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina.

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