Do you care about the livelihoods of our nation’s independent farmers and ranchers? How about the right to free speech?
If so, you should care about this: Large meatpacking corporations like Tyson and Smithfield have controlled our meat supply for years. As a recent Civil Eats article puts it, “Nationally, the top four companies in each industry slaughter four out of every five beef cattle, two out of three hogs and three out of five chickens. At the local or regional level, one company often controls an even larger percentage of the market.”
This doesn’t just affect a consumer’s choice at the grocery store; it also affects how independent meat producers are able to make a living, because Big Meat – these large companies that process our nation’s meat – has most of the power when doing business with family farmers and ranchers.
Big Meat is working tirelessly to roll back basic fair competition rules and strip independent producers of their rights. They’ve “…quietly flexed considerable lobbying muscle to kill one of the most important policy reforms for livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers—and therefore one of the most important policy reforms for those of us who care how our meat is raised.”
That important policy reform is a set of fair competition and fair contract rules intended to protect independent growers from the abuses that can occur when only a few large corporations control the market – things like retaliation for speaking out about abuses and exercising free speech, forced expensive equipment upgrades, or unfairly canceled contracts.
Unfortunately, meatpacking companies and their lobbyists have just moved one step closer to even more control of the meat industry. They were able to get language inserted in the House budget bill for 2015 that would prevent USDA from enforcing these fairness rules – known as Packers and Stockyards Act rules* – for farmers.
But you can help us fight back – right now!
We have a small window of opportunity to fight back for farmers, but we must act now! Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine has introduced an amendment to remove some of the worst of this bad language, and the House of Representatives will vote on it soon.
Make a call to your Representative and ask he/she to VOTE YES on the Pingree contract fairness amendment!
It’s simple: just look up the phone number of your Congressional Representative here, dial the number, and leave a message like this one below with the person who answers the phone:
“Hello, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent and a voter (and tell ‘em if you’re a farmer!). I would like to leave a message for the person who handles agriculture for [Representative]. Can you take a message for me, please? The message is: please support the contract fairness amendment from Representative Pingree during the House Agriculture Appropriations debate. Farmers and ranchers deserve a fair shot in the marketplace and should not be subject to abuse from industrial meatpackers. Thank you for your time.”
Thank you for standing up for fairness for farmers and ranchers!
- Sarah and Shavaun, the NSAC Grassroots Team
P.S. Want more info on this issue? You can read some farmers’ stories as shared by Representative Kaptur recently in this blog post, and our nitty-gritty breakdown of what exactly this bad language means for farmers – and why Rep. Pingree’s amendment is so important.
If you care about getting healthy food to everyone, protecting our natural resources, and supporting the next generation of American farmers, then you’ll want to get involved this year!
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