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USDA rules face challenges

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed and/or finalized several new rules related to the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act. 

Pushed by the Biden administration, USDA has been tightening enforcement of the P&S Act through a series of rules linked to fairness and market competition as a way to deal with the “imbalance” between packers and producers.

On June 3, the Poultry Grower Payment Systems and Capital Improvements Systems Rule was announced, revising regulations under the P&S Act while addressing unfairness and deception in broiler grower payments, tournament operations and capital improvement systems.

This rule specifically addresses how contract poultry growers are paid, as well as demands by processors for growers to make expensive upgrades to their facilities. 

The rule would end poultry integrators’ ability to use the tournament payment system to dock a producer’s pay using comparisons to the performance of other producers.

Most recently, the USDA published another proposed rule, Fair and Competitive Livestock and Poultry Markets.

This proposed rule would clarify the interpretation of “unfair” under the P&S Act and ensure livestock and poultry producers receive the full value for their products and services.

Through the P&S Act, Congress granted rulemaking and enforcement authority to USDA to ensure appropriate, competitive fair trade and market protections are afforded to those participating in the livestock, meat and poultry industries.

However, these USDA rules are now at greater risk of being thrown out by courts following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

What does this mean?

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn the Chevron doctrine which grants agencies the authority to write regulations when federal laws seem ambiguous.

The Chevron doctrine, established in 1984, had directed courts to defer to federal agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous laws.

The doctrine has allowed agencies to interpret vague laws, and now this change provides opponents a clearer legal path to challenge regulations, potentially forcing agencies to be more cautious in drafting rules.

Over the years, the Chevron doctrine has allowed agencies to change course, even when Congress has not given the specific authority to do so.

Now, the USDA will no longer have the broad authority to interpret ambiguous statutes or have the ability to create and enforce regulations without explicit Congressional authorization.

For instance, regulations related to farm subsidies or crop insurance will now face closer judicial scrutiny.

The ruling also puts pressure on Congress to draft more precise and detailed legislation, ensuring the statutory language is clear, avoiding judicial challenges while ensuring effective implementation by federal agencies.

Mixed reactions

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) welcomed the ruling, saying it restored the balance between the executive and legislative branches of government.

“In overturning the Chevron doctrine, the Supreme Court has taken a significant step in reaffirming a core principle of our Constitution – the power to legislate rests with Congress,” Thompsons states. 

“For too long, unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats have wielded unchecked power with wide-reaching implications,” he adds.

According to the National Pork Producers Council website, “We urged the high court to overrule the Chevron doctrine because it puts a heavy thumb on the scale on the side of agencies when a less constrained judicial inquiry would favor those challenging a law’s interpretation. Chevron incentivizes a finding of statutory ambiguity, rather than a deep inquiry into the meaning of statutory language.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) states the decision reins in the legal concept of Chevron deference and reduces overreaching regulations from federal agencies which lack Congressional authority.

“Our elected officials in Congress should be making our laws, not unelected bureaucrats at federal agencies,” states NCBA President Mark Eisele. “Cattle producers have experienced numerous instances of federal agencies enacting overreaching regulations on our farms and ranches, exceeding their authority granted by Congress.”

NCBA adds the Chevron doctrine gave federal agencies the authority to interpret statues they consider vague.

“In the last four decades, Congress has ceded authority to unelected federal bureaucrats who make the regulations impacting farmers and ranchers every day,” says NCBA Chief Counsel Mary-Thomas Hart.

“Long-term, this decision will impact almost every regulation NCBA has worked on,” she adds. “The decision puts Congress back in the driver’s seat for crafting policy, reins in the administrative state and strengthens accountability by ensuring the people we elect are the ones crafting our nation’s laws.”

But not everyone supports the decision. 

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), ranking member of the House Agriculture Education and Workforce Committee, states, “By eliminating Chevron deference, the Supreme Court has effectively taken steps to further politicize the courts and cripple the nation’s regulatory systems.”

He continues, “This decision has taken a wrecking ball to the regulatory systems which have served our country for decades. Agency interpretation of vague statutes is necessary to ensure Americans across the country can have reassurance their food and medication is safe for consumption, workplaces are safe and secure, student borrowers are not defrauded and so much more.”

Closer to home 

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the Chevron doctrine calling the decision a victory for commonsense regulatory reform. 

“For years, unelected bureaucrats running federal agencies in Washington, D.C. have used ‘deference’ as an excuse to target certain industries based on politics. Wyoming has experienced this firsthand,” Gordon states. “Limiting their power to overreach is cause for celebration, and this ruling begins this process. 

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) applauds the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn the Chevron doctrine, a decision curbing the power and authority of unaccountable federal agencies, reads his website.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a major victory for getting Washington, D.C. out of Wyoming. For too long unelected, unaccountable Washington, D.C. bureaucrats have gone unchecked. They abused the rulemaking process for decades,” he states. 

“This ruling rightly curbs the power of rogue federal bureaucrats and puts it back into the hands of the American people,” he adds.

Also showing their support is U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), stating, “For far too long, the Chevron doctrine has empowered unelected and unaccountable federal bureaucrats to have virtually uninhibited power to interpret the law however they please and use this interpretation to cater to this administration’s far left base.” 

She adds, “For years, the people of Wyoming have been forced to endure the consequences of an unchecked Biden administration and its heavy-handed regulations, and they have had enough.”

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-WY) responded to the Supreme Court ruling, stating, “The decision by the Supreme Court to end the Chevron deference is a huge step towards restoring our Constitutional freedoms and separation of powers.”

Many agree overturning the Chevron doctrine will have a tremendous impact on American farmers and ranchers.

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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