April 19, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ferd Hoefner, 202-547-5754 FHoefner@sustainableagriculture.net
NSAC Press Statement on Passage of Harris Amendment
We are deeply disturbed by the passage of the Harris amendment to prohibit USDA from protecting farmers as provided by the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 against anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent, retaliatory and other abusive business practices by multi-national meat processing companies. The amendment squeaked by on a vote of 26-24.
USDA is poised this year to finalize rules that would protect farmers’ basic human rights – like the right to free speech, freedom of association, right to trial by jury, and transparency in contract terms – in their dealings with large meat processing companies. *
The scope of the Harris rider is truly stunning. If included in final FY 2017 funding legislation, it would prevent USDA from implementing even the most basic farmer protections. It prohibits USDA from enforcing provisions from the 2008 Farm Bill and the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, both of which direct USDA to ensure that livestock and poultry markets are open, transparent, and competitive, and to protect farmers and ranchers from fraudulent, deceptive and abusive practices in their dealings with the meat and poultry industry.
In addition to NSAC, both the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union opposed the anti-farmer Harris amendment.
By law, appropriations bills are supposed to have a narrow focus – providing discretionary funding for federal programs in a particular fiscal year. Instead, the FY 2017 House Agriculture Appropriations bill as amended overreaches, going beyond its jurisdiction to overturn multiple pieces of authorizing legislation. We will work with our partners to remove this anti-farmer provision from the annual agriculture spending bill as the process moves forward.
* The Harris rider undermines several core protections for farmers including:
(1) Protection Against Retaliation
Regulation to make it a prohibited practice under the Packers and Stockyards Act for meatpackers and poultry integrators to retaliate against farmers for exercising their rights to free speech and/or free association.
(2) Payment Transparency
Regulation to require meatpackers and poultry integrators to give farmers statistical information and data about how their pay is calculated, if the farmer requests such information.
(3) Farmers’ Legal Rights to Jury Trial
Regulation to prohibit meatpackers and poultry integrators from forcing farmers to give up their legal right to a jury trial to address future disputes with the company.
Regulation to require meatpackers and poultry companies to submit to GIPSA sample contracts that they are using in their contract relationships with farmers.
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: http://sustainableagriculture.net