President Joe Biden is getting ready to do more good for rural America. In on top of signing the Rural Veterans’ Mental Health Act signed last week, the President now plans to weigh in on the side of farmers on the “right to repair” issue:
U.S. President Joe Biden wants the Federal Trade Commission to limit the ability of farm equipment manufacturers to restrict tractor owners from using independent repair shops or complete some repairs on their own, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters Tuesday.
Biden’s planned executive order on competition, expected to be released in the coming days, will encourage the FTC to address the issue, the source said. Some tractor manufacturers like Deere & Co use proprietary repair tools and software to prevent third parties from performing some repairs [David Shepardson and Diane Bartz, “Biden Seeks to Lift Limits on Farmer Deals with Meat Processors, Tractor Makers,” Reuters, 2021.07.06].
The FTC’s “Nixing the Fix” report from May 1, 2021, says farm implement manufacturers and other industries could avoid federal regulation by adopting their own standards for right to repair. After Massachusetts passed a right-to-repair law for cars, the automotive industry adopted such a self-regulatory scheme in 2014 to prevent other states from following Massachusetts’ example. But the FTC notes automakers can make self-regulation work more easily because they are a more well-defined industry sector.
President Biden is also taking action against Big Meat to help American livestock producers:
In June, USDA announced plans to write new regulations strengthening PSA enforcement, including a rule to offer greater clarity on what constitutes “unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences, and unjust prejudices.” Another rule is expected to address the “tournament” system in poultry production. Meatpackers reacted with concern, with the leader of the North American Meat Institute — CEO Julie Anna Potts — saying the group “will continue to oppose unnecessary and burdensome government intervention in livestock markets.”
USDA has also previously announced plans to address “Product of the USA” concerns. On Friday USDA said it plans to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of the use of “Product of the USA” declarations on meat labels. That declaration came as part of a broader Federal Trade Commission action on declaration of origin claims. USDA said it plans to launch a rulemaking process following a study of the issue.
Livestock producer groups had previously expressed frustration that the existing label language allowed foreign beef processed in the U.S. to bear a “product of the USA” label, something [White House press secretary Jen] Psaki said she personally found “a little outrageous” [Spencer Chase, “Biden Prepping Competition, Right to Repair Executive Order,” AgriPulse, 2021.07.06].
Senator John Thune has expressed support for USDA’s review of the meat-labeling rules. Representative Dusty Johnson tweets that he requested a review of the “Product of the USA” rules in 2019, which is funny, because back then he had a President of his own party, who you’d think would have been quicker to respond to such a call from a Congressman of his own party and from his rural base. But evidently it takes a Democrat in the White House and not a silk-suit billionaire to act on such rural priorities. Let’s hope Johnson and Thune remind South Dakota farmers of this labeling review and the other things the Biden Administration is doing to look our for rural interests.