Packers & Stockyards Act 42 Stat. 159 (1921)

views updated

PACKERS & STOCKYARDS ACT 42 Stat. 159 (1921)

After a Federal Trade Commission investigation damaging to the meat-packing industry in 1919–1920, popular sentiment demanded decisive action. Congress responded with this statute regulating both the packers and the stockyards. As one of its sponsors declared, the statute merely reenacted old principles in order to restore and maintain competition. Indeed, the clause banning "unfair" competition restated section 5 of the federal trade commission act. Other provisions forbade giving "undue or unreasonable advantage" (repeating section 3 of the interstate commerce act) or apportioning items by geographic area (ICA, section 5; sherman antitrust act, section 1). Violators might be brought before the secretary of agriculture, who could issue cease-and-desist orders; appeals lay to federal circuit courts. Stockyards subject to the act were required to register and provide "reasonable" services and charges. The secretary could determine new rates and order compliance, although the act provided no standards for his guidance. Perhaps because of a consent decree negotiated with the industry in 1920, the Department of Justice was reluctant to prosecute the packers. Their disinclination, and the packers' efforts to avoid the consent decree, materially contributed to the act's passage. In enacting this statute, Congress emphasized public concern over and commitment to strict accountability to the nation's antitrust laws.

(See stafford v. wallace.)

David Gordon


Gordon, David 1983 The Beef Trust: Antitrust Law and the Meat Packing Industry, 1902–1922. Ph.D. diss., Claremont Graduate School.