It’s disappointing that the Trump administration and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts have sided with big agriculture over independent farmers by blocking rules that would have made it easier for independent farmers to challenge unfair trade practices by the major companies that dominate the industry.

The rules — the Final Farmer Fair Practice Rules — have been in the works for nearly a decade as part of the Grain, Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Act. …

Two days before the rules were to take effect, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was withdrawing the rules.

Opponents of the rules such as Roberts said the rules could have cost the agriculture industry billions, exposed agriculture producers to expensive and unnecessary litigation and placed additional regulatory burden on the agriculture industry.

Agriculture Secretary “(Sonny) Perdue’s actions today demonstrate the Trump Administration’s commitment to promoting economic prosperity and reducing regulatory burdens in rural America,” Roberts said.

But it’s hard not to be suspicious that the rules were undercut by the lobbying efforts of the country’s biggest agriculture companies.

The rules were predominantly aimed at trying to help poultry producers. According to the USDA, four producers — Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Foods — control 50 to 60 percent of the poultry market. Most poultry is produced by farmers under contract with one of the four major producers. While the farmers own the land and equipment, the companies own the chickens and turkeys and dictate the processes from where the chicks are kept to how much feed they receive. …

It is very difficult for farmers to challenge the system. If they file suit in court, they must prove competitive injury to prevail. That means that if a farmer challenges a company’s trade practices, not only does the farmer have to prove he or she has been harmed but also that the company’s practices harm competition throughout the entire industry. …

The new rules would have clearly defined predatory and retaliatory practices and eliminated the requirement that farmers prove harm to the entire industry. …

It’s hardly a level playing field for independent farmers and ranchers. Sadly, the death of the Farmer Fair Practice Rules only tilts the scales further in favor of the handful of major corporations that dominate production agriculture.

— The Lawrence Journal-World