Farmers Sue to Reinstate Obama Lawsuit Rule Trump Killed

Chicken growers would have had more leverage in antitrust claims against big agriculture. Now they feel betrayed.

Last year, rural Americans who believed Donald Trump’s promises to help small farmers played a key role in putting him in the White House. Since then, the Republican administration’s Department of Agriculture moved to block an Obama-era rule that provided those farmers with a powerful tool to fight anti-competitive conduct by big agriculture. So now some of those farmers have sued.

The rule in question would have helped independent farmers, such as poultry growers, to sue massive, vertically integrated meat companies that control every step of the production process. The American chicken farmer largely exists at the whim of mass producers that, under a contract, give them feed and chicks to raise in exchange for pay. Under current law, if one of those farmers has a gripe because, for example, he or she believes unhealthy chicks were sent as retaliation for a complaint about the contract, courts require a showing that the whole market—and not just the lone farmer—was hurt by the company’s actions.

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