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Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not been properly investigating anti-competitive agricultural product markets and U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is co-sponsoring legislation to increase producer protections and competition.

“Complaints into anti-competitive practices are not being investigated by the USDA. We need to clean up the system This bill addresses the top needs of producers to ensure that no more investigations are being blocked,” said Enzi.

Enzi co-sponsored the bill which would, for the first time in 80 years, define the word “unfair” as used in the Packers and Stockyard Act.

“Recent actions by courts across the county have put producers on the defensive. They’ve been forced to carry an unfair burden by being required to show the competitive harm to themselves as well as to everyone in the industry. This is an almost impossible situation. This bill would put fairness into the system by making it so producers only have to prove competitive harm to themselves for the particular case in question,” said Enzi.

The bill would also establish an Office of Special Counsel for Competition matters whose leader would be brought before the U.S. Senate for confirmation. The office would be created to investigate and prosecute violations on competition matters.

A recent report issued by the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General in early January found that the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), which is charged with enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act, prevented employees from conducting investigations of anti-competitive markets and actually embellished the number of investigations being conducted so it would appear they were being responsive.

Last week Enzi signed a bipartisan letter to Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, calling for a hearing into the actions of GIPSA.

The Packers and Stockyards Act was enacted in 1921 to protect livestock and poultry producers from fraud, abuse and anti-competitive behavior.