Meat industry criticizes USDA's new antitrust rule

December 8, 2011 - 5:15 PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Meat companies and lobbyists are criticizing a new antitrust rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The rule published Thursday is a stripped-down version of reforms that ran into strong opposition from businesses and Congress. The final version of the rule requires that meat companies give farmers the right to opt out of mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts.

More than a year of debate on reforms pitted the nation's biggest meat companies against many farmers and ranchers. Congress voted last month to prohibit the USDA from passing most portions of the reform.

Poultry producer Tyson Foods Inc. said the change would add millions in costs to a struggling industry.

But farmer advocates said the measure did not go far enough to address the market power of big meat companies.