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An Important Post-Election Action:  Protecting Farmers’ Rights

For the last several years – well before Election Day! – NSAC and its allies have been working on an urgent issue for farmers’ rights. Then the election happened. Needless to say, the landscape for food and farm policy is going to shift significantly in the weeks and months to come. We’ll be diving into what it all means soon, and we will absolutely want to hear from you. In the meantime, the issue below has just become even more urgent. If you are looking for a meaningful action you can take RIGHT NOW after the election for justice and for farmers, this is one.

Here’s what’s going on – USDA has only 72 days before this Administration ends to finalize absolutely critical rules to protect farmers’ rights, and some members of Congress are trying to stop them at the behest of corporate actors while people are distracted. Earlier this year, members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture slipped language into a House spending bill that would roll back much-needed protections for chicken farmers. Independent growers are reporting serious abuses from Big Meat – and when they question unfair contracts, exercise free speech, or resist anti-competitive practices, they have limited legal protection right now. USDA, with the support of a coalition of farmer-based groups, is trying to fix this. But if passed, this “rider” language would prevent USDA from publishing rules that would protect these farmers’ basic free speech and fair competition rights.

Just days after the election, while the nation is still taking stock, Congress is wasting no time in moving on a budget for next year – meaning that RIGHT NOW is our chance to speak up! Help us make sure that Congress listens to family farmers and ranchers – now more than ever. Can we count on you to make a call?

CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD: (202) 224-3121

It’s simple:  just dial the number above for the Capitol switchboard, tell them your legislator’s name (key legislators are listed below), and leave a message like this one below with the person who answers the phone once you are connected with the office:

“Hello, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent and a voter (and let them know if you’re a farmer!).  I would like to leave a message for the person who handles agriculture appropriations, please.  Can you take a message for me?  The message is: I urge you to fight for farmers’ free speech and fair competition rights! Please ensure next year’s budget is free of any riders that would curtail these rights for independent livestock producers. Producers deserve a fair shot in the marketplace and should not be subject to abuse from industrial meatpackers. Thank you for your time.”

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Key Senators
Feinstein CA
Moran KS
McConnell KY
Mikulski MD
Collins ME
Blunt MO
Cochran MS
Daines MT
Tester MT
Hoeven ND
Udall NM
Merkley OR
Leahy VT
Baldwin WI

Important – it is best to call only Senators who represent YOU – that is, folks from your state. Don’t see your Senator on the list? It’s OK to call your Senator too! These are the highest priority folks who sit on the key committee for this issue.

P.S. After you make your call, we would love to hear how it went!

P. P. S. Want to learn more about this issue? Check out this video produced by NSAC member the Rural Advancement Foundation. Want to go deeper? This segment from the John Oliver show highlights just how bad this industry can be for farmers – and what’s at stake for all of us. It’s sure to anger anyone who cares about the people who produce our nation’s food (and while it was produced a year ago, the issues are the same!).

Just four companies control more than half of broiler production in the US – and their business practices have seriously bad consequences for our nation’s food production and the livelihoods of our farmers.  Here’s how it works: 97% of chickens are raised through contract farms.  That means that nearly all of the chicken that ends up on your plate is raised by farmers who sign confidential contracts that require them to compete for pay with their neighbors in a “tournament” that always has losers.  Farmers often go into over a million dollars in debt for these contracts, making major purchases of equipment and buildings with promises from Big Meat that if they just produce enough chicken, they’ll make their money back.

But of course, Big Meat is more interested in lining their own pockets than supporting contracted farmers, and there is little hope of paying that debt back. Farmers aren’t even guaranteed healthy birds or quality feed. As farmers try to speak out against unfair practices, they face retaliation, such as delivery of sick birds or low quality feed, from their contract companies and risk losing the farms they’ve invested so heavily in.


How Can I Get Involved with NSAC?

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!

  • STAY INFORMED: Sign up for Action Alerts on our homepage; this is our #1 means to communicate with people like you when it’s time to take action.
  • GROW THE MOVEMENT: Share this page with your friends and family and ask them to join our campaign!
  • TELL YOUR STORY: Are you a farmer who has benefited from – or struggled with – federal farm programs? We want to hear from you! Contact us to share your experience and potentially be part of our farmer storybank.
  • GET TO KNOW YOUR LEGISLATORS: Do you know who your Senators and Representative are? Do you know how they vote on sustainable agriculture issues? Find out who represents you here; send ’em an email and ask them how they voted on the issues that matter to YOU.
  • JOIN US ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Did you know that many legislators really do read what folks share with them via Facebook and Twitter? Follow NSAC on Facebook and Twitter – and consider following your legislators, too!