Farmers and ranchers are waiting on an executive order from the White House that could change the trajectory of how they can repair their equipment and allow for more power in negotiating the sale of livestock.
President Joe Biden appears on the cusp of issuing an executive order that would allow more flexibility when it comes fixing and repairing equipment. First reported by Reuters, “The order would encourage the Federal Trade Commission to limit the ability of farm equipment manufacturers to prevent tractor owners from using independent repair shops or repairing their own equipment.”
For many years, farm groups have been pushing for some type of so-called right-to-repair legislation. However, those actions never came to fruition, and farmers have been frustrated often dealing with technology restrictions when trying to repair equipment. This prevents farmers from being able to properly repair machinery themselves or have an independent contractor do the work — instead paying top dollar for repairs direct from manufacturer experts.
In a press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will engage in a series of rulemakings to increase competition in agricultural industries to boost farmers’ and ranchers’ earnings, fight back against abuses of power by giant agribusiness corporations, and give farmers the right to repair their own equipment how they like.”
According to Reuters’ source, the scope of any “right to repair” rules would be set by the Federal Trade Commission.
Secondly, the executive order is expected to tackle the rules of the misleading “Product of the USA” label — a review of which was sought by Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack just last week. Psaki stated that the executive order will issue new rules defining when meat can bear the “Product of the USA” label so that consumers have accurate, transparent labels that enable them to know where their food comes from and to choose to support American farmers and ranchers. As of right now, foreign entities can raise and slaughter beef abroad, but have it processed in the United States, while still being labeled as “Product of the USA.”
Similarly, the Federal Trade Commission recently finalized a rule that is intended to tighten the use of the Made in the USA standard, and many ranching advocates hope to extend this to Product of the USA meat labeling, too.
Such rulemaking, however, is not without contention. Those in favor of the tightest regulations tend to favor a perspective that an animal should be born, raised, and harvested in the United States, not just fit the criteria of one of those three things. Other stakeholders want the wording to say “Processed in the USA,” to best reflect the reality of the food chain and to protect discrimination in trade dealings with Canada and Mexico.
Lastly, the forthcoming executive order is likely to increase opportunities for farmers by receiving a fair return and supporting alternative food distribution systems like farmers markets. By “developing standards and labels that consumers can choose to buy products that treat farmers and agricultural workers fairly,” the executive order will hopefully improve access to more markets.
An announcement about an executive order on these issues could come as early as Friday, July 8. The USDA announced that Vilsack will be traveling to Omaha, Nebraska, for a major announcement.
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.