USDA published on December 1 a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would add a new clause to the Agriculture Acquisition Regulation (AGAR) entitled “Labor Law Violations.”

The new clause would require every USDA contractor to certify that they are “in compliance with all applicable labor laws” and that, to the best of their knowledge, all of their subcontractors and suppliers are also in compliance with all applicable labor laws.  Additionally, contractors would also be responsible for notifying their contracting officer “when formal allegations or formal findings of non-compliance of labor laws are determined.”

It is not clear whether this reporting obligation applies to violations by subcontractors or suppliers.  It is also not clear who “determines” that a non-compliance has occurred.  In addition to issuing this new clause as a proposed rule, USDA also published the clause as a “direct final rule,” which would allow the rule to take effect immediately on February 29, 2012, if no adverse comments are received by USDA before January 30, 2012.  In the event that USDA receives adverse comments (i.e., comment that suggests the rule be changed or withdrawn), the direct final rule will be withdrawn and the proposed rule will then be subject to the standard notice and comment procedures.

The National Chicken Council will be filing comments on this proposed rule.  USDA’s proposed rule is available here.