Biden unleashes the Strike Force

New Packers and Stockyards Act rule among several executive actions.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

March 5, 2024

3 Min Read
helicopter taking flight in front of U.S. White House
Getty Images/tomwachs

He may not have a $400 dollar sneaker line, but President Biden now boasts a Strike Force. It’s the snazzy name he’s bestowed upon a newly created team to target unfair and illegal pricing activities.

The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission will co-chair the Strike Force. Together they will work with other federal agencies to “root out and stop” illegal corporate behavior that raises prices through anti-competitive, unfair, deceptive or fraudulent business practices.

The president is expected to offer more details on the plan during his Thursday State of the Union address.

New Packers and Stockyards Act rules set to take affect

In addition to the Strike Force, the Biden administration is also announcing multiple actions intended to lower costs and address questionable business practices. A new provision in the Packers and Stockyards Act called the Inclusive Competition Rule addresses discriminatory, retaliatory and deceptive contract practices.

The rule prohibits the adverse treatment of livestock producers and poultry growers on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, marital status or age. Discrimination against producer cooperatives is prohibited as well.

Also banned are retaliatory actions against producers and growers for engaging in specified protective activities. Those activities include lawful communications, refusals to communicate, participating in co-ops or associations, and entering into an agreement with a competitor.

The new guidelines include revised language prohibiting misleading contract information and provisions to ensure new rule enforcement and compliance.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the changes will benefit producers and growers who have become increasingly vulnerable to a range of practices that unjustly exclude them from economic opportunity and undermine market integrity.

“The Packers and Stockyards Act prohibits unjust discrimination, undue prejudice, and deception,” he says. “This final rule will provide for a clearer, more effective standard by which to govern all of this in the modern marketplace.”

The final rule will go into effect 60 days after appearing in the Federal Register.

Additional action on multiple fronts

As part of the Biden administration’s executive order to promote competition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is finalizing a rule to reduce credit card late fees from an average of $32 to $8. Administration officials say this will save consumers around $10 billion annually. That’s approximately $220 per year for the estimated 45 million people who incur late fees each year.

CFPB data also shows credit card interest rate margins are now at an all-time high, with big banks charging more interest than smaller ones.

The Federal Trade Commission is proposing a rule that would ban “bulk billing” by landlords who charge renters in a building the same amount for internet, cable, or satellite service, even if they don’t want those services. Administration officials say those practices limit consumer choice and increase costs. FTC is also considering new rules to address exclusive agreements between service providers and landlords that drive prices due to lack of competition.

The FTC’s actions are part of a broader effort to eliminate so-called “junk fees” that affect consumer purchases for everything from live events and apartment rentals to internet service and bank fees. A Council of Economic Advisors analysis estimates Americans pay nearly $90 billion in junk fees each year. Biden administration officials believe their actions will eliminate more than $20 billion of this.

Some have raised concerns that these executive actions could be subject to legal challenges. According to a Biden administration official, some proposed rule changes were revised after consultations with industry leaders. While confident of the rules’ legality, the official did not rule out the possibility of future litigation.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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