For Immediate Release
Tyler Whitley, [email protected], 919-621-0534
Adam Hymans, [email protected], 215-796-7759
Candace Spencer, [email protected], 202-547-5754
Sarah Borron, [email protected], 202-457-0034 ext. 157
Joe Maxwell, [email protected], 573-721-0927
Jennifer Fahy, [email protected], 617-354-2922
[Washington, DC, October 10, 2019] – Today, farm and rural advocacy organizations delivered more than 84,000 petition signatures to USDA offices as part of a campaign urging the agency to take action to protect farmers from corporate abuse and exploitation in the livestock sector. In May, the USDA announced its intent to publish a new rule under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA), a major piece of antitrust legislation governing the livestock and poultry industries. The rule would specify criteria the Secretary of Agriculture could consider in determining whether conduct or action by packers, swine contractors, or live poultry dealers constitutes an undue or unreasonable preference or advantage and a violation of the PSA.
Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI-USA), National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), Government Accountability Project (GAP), Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), and Farm Aid have joined farmers Tony and Christy Grigsby in the fight for farmer protections, and have together gathered signatures from more than 84,000 supporters demanding that USDA take strong action in their upcoming undue preference rulemaking.
Tony and Christy were contract poultry farmers for more than 10 years in Alabama, witnessing and experiencing many hardships during that time. Tony, a retired law-enforcement officer-turned poultry farmer, and his wife, Christy, a third generation poultry farmer, saw their situation dramatically deteriorate after they began raising concerns about the actions of their integrator. Forced to financial ruin by the exploitative system of contract poultry farming, they launched an impassioned plea for public support in their fight for farmer protections.
“Right now, farmers are in a dire situation. Farmers have been trying to raise awareness for more than 30+ years. We have led letter writing campaigns, tractorcades, called government enforcement agencies, and met with our elected officials, yet things have not changed and we’re still losing our farms,” said farmer Tony Grigsby. “Our government needs to start working for the people and not the corporations. We need the USDA to enact strong safeguards for farmers.”
On July 30th of this year, members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, led by Sen. Tester (D-MT) and Rep. Kaptur (D-OH), sent a bicameral, bipartisan letter to USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach encouraging the Agency to draft regulatory rules that prioritize the rights of America’s small independent cattlemen, hog producers, and contract poultry growers. The letter urges the Agency to limit the control and influence of meatpackers and poultry companies and provide recourse for small producers facing predatory practices.
“Unfortunately, the Grigsby’s story is not unique. Retaliation and unfair practices have been rampant in the absence of strong protections that enforce the intent of the Packers & Stockyards Act of 1921. It is imperative that USDA take this opportunity to write a strong rule that will promote fair competition within the livestock and poultry industries.” – Candace Spencer, Policy Specialist for National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
The petition demands that the upcoming undue preference rule includes the following protections for farmers:
- Freedom to speak the truth;
- Freedom to join together in producer associations;
- Protection from corporations enforcing a self-serving system;
- Clear criteria with detailed, specific rules that adequately cover different types of livestock, and are suitable for the future.
“USDA has a responsibility to work with America’s farmers and ranchers and not the monopoly corporations. USDA is the regulator over monopolies. Secretary Perdue needs to keep with USDA’s long held position and stand with farm families. Farmers need the ability to bring an action against monopolies under the Packers and Stockyards Act when they have been financially harmed without having to show the whole sector was harmed,” stated Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of OCM.
North Carolina contract poultry farmer Rudy Howell says this is a chance for the agency to finally deliver for farmers. “Farmers all around are complaining about how we’re being treated, but are too scared to speak publicly. We farmers can’t set the record straight and speak the truth because we don’t have any protections from retaliation. That’s why this rule is so important.”
The upcoming rule is set to be released this fall, followed by a 60-day comment period. RAFI-USA, NSAC, GAP, OCM, Farm Aid, and the Grigsbys urge farmers and citizens across the U.S. to submit comments once the rule is released.
About Farm Aid
Farm Aid’s mission is to build a vibrant, family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid artists and board members Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews host an annual festival to raise funds to support Farm Aid’s work with family farmers and to inspire people to choose family farm food. For more than 30 years, Farm Aid, with the support of the artists who contribute their performances each year, has raised $57 million to support programs that help farmers thrive, expand the reach of the Good Food Movement, take action to change the dominant system of industrial agriculture and promote food from family farms. Learn more at www.farmaid.org
About the Food Integrity Campaign
The Food Integrity Campaign was created in 2009 as a program of the Government Accountability Project to expose wrongdoing in industrial agriculture. By empowering industry whistleblowers to speak out against waste, fraud and abuse, FIC helps consumers make informed decisions that benefit their families, animals, workers, and the environment. Learn more at www.foodwhistleblower.org
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: https://sustainableagriculture.net
About the Organization for Competitive Markets
Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is a membership-based public policy research and advocacy organization headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska. OCM was founded in 1998 by farmers, ranchers, attorneys, agricultural economists, rural sociologists and state legislators to challenge the growing income power disparities between agricultural producers and agribusinesses in the food system. OCM was founded on the premise that independent farmers and ranchers must ultimately survive and prosper by receiving fair and adequate compensation for their products through the marketplace. Learn more at www.competitivemarkets.com
About the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA
The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA mission is to cultivate markets, policies and communities that sustain thriving, socially just, and environmentally sound family farms. RAFI-USA works nationally and internationally, focusing on North Carolina and the southeastern United States. RAFI-USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Pittsboro, North Carolina and incorporated in 1990. Learn more at www.rafiusa.org/programs/contract-agriculture-reform