Farm activists seek ‘robust’ fair-play rules at USDA

The USDA should provide strong protections for livestock and poultry growers in their dealings with meatpackers and processors, said farm activists on Thursday in delivering petitions signed by more than 84,000 people in support of a “robust” fair-practices rule.

With an eye to forage, USDA changes hay and graze rules

The USDA announced a one-time change on Thursday to its rules on harvesting forage and grazing livestock on prevented-planting cropland. The move was meant to assure there will be enough livestock feed this year, particularly for dairy cattle.

Ranchers suit claims packers conspired to deflate beef prices

Last week, several Midwestern feedlot owners along with the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that dominant meatpackers conspired to depress cattle prices starting in 2015. The case argues that JBS, Tyson, Cargill, and National Beef strategically cut back on open market cattle bids, closed plants, and imported costly foreign cattle in order to force farmers to accept lower prices and manipulate spot market cattle values.(No paywall)

Beef packing merger threatens last competitive cash cattle market in U.S.

Last month, the nation’s fourth-largest beef packer, National Beef, announced plans to take over Sysco-owned Iowa Premium, a regional packer focused on processing Black Angus steers for the Upper Midwest. National Beef is majority-owned by the Brazilian firm Marfrig. (No paywall)

USDA tiptoes into cell-based ‘meat ‘ argument

An estimated 40 companies worldwide are in the race to bring to market cell-based meat — "clean meat" in the eyes of proponents and "fake meat" according to ranchers. Asked if the product qualifies as meat, Deputy Agriculture Undersecretary Mindy Brashears responded, "This is something we will be talking about. That is an important priority for us."

USDA and FDA seek to cooperate on regulating cell-culture technology

The Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration began a two-day stakeholder meeting Tuesday to discuss how to regulate livestock and poultry produced with cell-culture technology. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb emphasized that both agencies have a role in creating a regulatory framework for lab-grown meat, but suggested such a framework will still take months to complete.

Second federal court allows challenge of USDA over organic livestock

Federal judges on the east and west coasts have rebuffed the USDA and are allowing lawsuits to proceed against the Trump administration's dismissal of animal welfare standards for organic farms, a regulation that was in the works for years. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) says that by delaying and then withdrawing the livestock rule, the government "engaged in a pattern of misconduct that can only be corrected by a federal court."

If it’s not cage-free, California referendum would bar sale of eggs, pork and veal

A decade ago, California voters rattled the U.S. farm sector and set off years of lawsuits by approving a referendum to give egg-laying chickens, sows and veal calves the room to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs. On Nov. 6, the electorate could do it again, this time by specifying how many square feet each animal would get and by banning the sale of meat and eggs from farms that do not comply with the rules.

FDA and USDA call public meeting on regulation and labeling of cell-based meat

The two major food-safety regulators in the federal government will hear from the public on Oct. 23 and 24 on how to handle cell-based meat, a technological innovation that is nearing the marketplace. The meeting, announced on Monday, follows suggestions by the meat processors and Memphis Meats, a leader in the nascent industry, that the administration clarify lines of authority over cell-based meat.

Ranchers expand lawsuit against checkoff to 13 states

A group of independent ranchers has expanded its lawsuit against the federal beef checkoff to include 13 more states, arguing that the checkoff violates the First Amendment by requiring ranchers to fund the "private speech" of state beef councils. The Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund (R-CALF) filed a supplementary pleading on August 9 that expands its existing lawsuit against Montana's beef checkoff program to include beef checkoff programs in Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.