Pittsboro, NC (December 14, 2016) – Today, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new Farmer Fair Practice Rules to protect contract farmers from some of the abusive terms commonly found in contracts with large poultry companies. Three rules have been released. The rules include:
an interim final rule that specifies that farmers do not have to prove harm to competition in the industry to bring a case against an integrator for harm or unfair practices,
a proposed rule containing criteria GIPSA would use to judge the fairness of a poultry grower ranking system (aka tournament system) used to calculate farmer payment, and
a proposed rule to define “undue or unreasonable preference” under the Packers and Stockyards Act.
In response to this announcement, Sally Lee, Program Director at RAFI, along with North Carolina and Arkansas poultry farmers Craig Watts, Mitchell Crutchfield, and Reid Phifer, have issued the following statements: “We applaud USDA in standing up for the family farmer by moving forward with the Farmer Fair Practice Rules. We hope these rules will begin to establish a new baseline of fairness for farmers in the poultry and livestock industries,” said Sally Lee, Program Director at Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) and co-director of the upcoming documentary film Under Contract, which investigates the struggles poultry farmers face. “The USDA is moving in the right direction when it comes to mitigating the imbalance of power that exists in a contract poultry arrangement. I hope these rules do in fact become a deterrent against the well documented instances of unfair or retaliatory practices the industry uses against farmers,” added Craig Watts, a former poultry grower with Perdue Farms from North Carolina. “This is a good first step. Every individual has the right to equal protection under the law provided by our constitution. As an American I should never have to prove “competitive injury” in an attempt to access justice. I hope these rules put an end to that,” said Reid Phifer, current poultry farmer, also from North Carolina. “Our contract was terminated and we are facing possibly losing our farm. Growers not having to prove competitive injury is a huge gain toward grower fairness and could enable GIPSA to enforce the Rules (202 a &b) that we already have in the Packers and Stockyards Act, this alone could have completely changed our out come,” said Mitchell Crutchfield, former poultry farmer with Tyson Foods in Arkansas.
Watch the trailer for our documentary, Under Contract, below. We expect to release the film on February 1st, 2017.
On October 13th, the NC Division of Employment Security announced the approval of 20 North Carolina counties for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. The following counties were approved, although more counties may be added at a later date: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Dare, Edgecombe, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Wayne and Wilson. This program is available for individuals who are prevented from working due to the hurricane, including farmers who are prevented from performing their normal tasks due to storm damage. This includes not being able to farm because they are cleaning up damage.
The Contract Farmer Organizer will conduct farmer outreach, build and maintain relationships with our farmer network, and collect research data along with contract farmers in livestock and other agricultural sectors.
A short questionnaire has been developed by our “Bring Back the Bees Campaign” project, and all information you provide will be confidential. The purpose of this survey is to understand and assess best practices and policies necessary to restore, increase, and protect pollinator habitat and to protect food security and farmer viability. Please click here to take our Pollinator Survey!