July 23, 2010
Farmers and ranchers who raise livestock and poultry need your help to get a fair deal and a level playing field with meat and poultry processors.
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a hearing on Tuesday, July 20 that focused on USDA proposed rules to strengthen and clarify the protections for the nation’s farmers and ranchers provided in the Packers and Stockyards Act. The full Congress approved critical measures in the 2008 Farm Bill which give broad authority to USDA to fashion rules to implement the Act in order to provide farmers and ranchers with increased information about contracts and markets. USDA was also directed by Congress to issue rules for the Act that increase protections for farmers and ranchers from unfair and deceptive practices in their dealings with meat and poultry packers and processors.
But some members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee, at the hearing on the proposed rules, made crystal clear that they were firmly allied with large corporate packers and processors and had little concern, and even contempt, for farmers and ranchers. Of those attending, only Representative Leonard Boswell (D-IA) stated in the hearing that USDA had not exceeded its statutory authority in the proposed rules. A few Representatives, including Tim Holden (D-PA), Steve Kagen (D-WI), Betsy Markey (CO), and Joe Baca (D-CA), were present but did not weigh in.
Other Committee members, including Chairman David Scott (D-GA), Ranking Member Randy Nuegebauer (R-TX), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Steve King (R-IA), Walt Minnick (D-ID), David Roe (R-TN) and Michael Conaway (R-TX) spent the good part of two hours slamming the proposed rules. They expressed alarm over the potential consequences for some of the most powerful and wealthy corporations in the nation, whose unfair and deceptive practices and sheer market power over those who produce our food could be curtailed by the rules. They responded with denial to the concerns of USDA Under Secretary Edward Avalos who testified that part of the drastic decrease in our farming population is in response to packer and processor market concentration and the lack of fair prices and fair dealing in the marketplace.
Some Representatives even opposed a measure in the proposed rules that would put an end to a judicially-imposed requirement, not found in the Packers & Stockyards Act, that farmers and ranchers must show not only individual harm but also “competitive injury” to the market as a whole when they are victims of unfair and deceptive practice. This judicial add-on to the Act has blocked farmers and ranchers from obtaining the Act’s protections when they have clearly shown that a packer or processor has used unfair and deceptive practices to cause them economic harm. The USDA proposed rule clarifies that the Act does not require that farmers and ranchers show competitive harm to an entire market sector. Without this clarification, activist conservative courts have ignored the clear intent of the law to protect individual farmers and ranchers.
The proposed regulations have the support of major organizations with farmer and rancher members across the U.S. These groups include the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund-United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA).
On July 23, NSAC joined with over 66 farmer, rancher, rural and sustainable agriculture groups on a letter in support of the USDA proposed rules, addressed to the House Agriculture Committee and delivered to members of Congress.
What YOU Can Do –
All of us who care about our nation’s farmers and ranchers must tell our Senators and Representatives that we support USDA’s proposed rules, issued on June 22, to strengthen the protections of the Packers & Stockyards Act.
Call or email your Representative and Senators.
• Urge them to support the USDA proposed rules that restore competition and contract fairness to livestock and poultry markets. Tell them we need a level playing field for family farmers and ranchers.
• Urge them to contact USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and express their support for the proposed rules.
It’s easy to call. You can get your Senator and Representative’s name and their direct number by going to Congress.org and typing in your zip code. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard, provide your Senator or Representative’s name and be directly connected to their office: (202) 225-3121. Once you are connected to your Senator or Representative’s office, ask to speak to the aide that works on agriculture. Leave the message in their voice mail if they are not available to take the call.
Categories: Competition & Anti-trust
I am one of the farmers who has had a huge problem with the U.S. government over these issues. Our complex is literally being destroyed over the lack of enforcement of this market law at the meat packer’s request. I was denied being able to watch my chickens get weighed and under the last administration, the “investigations” by GIPSA were rigged. The courts have denied me a trial (the judge I got was former U.S. Attorney who got Tyson off of our Shelbyville, TN plant’s illegal alien case and then GW Bush appointed him as a federal judge) based on their legislating from the bench with this “Competitive harm” the new GIPSA rules correct. Tyson hired his old law firm to represent them as well as one of judge Alito’s former clerks, paid a reportedly $100,000.00 for one brief.
One one man from our complex already committed suicide over these issues and another colleague of mine in Alabama who testified in front of Congress did also. We have to stop this power grab.
We have the best government money can buy and it has been bought. Poultry farmers are scared to do anything about it because they know anything they do will result in retaliation, bankruptcy, and all of their assets being taken from them.
I was president of our local poultry grower’s association and my Agricultural Fair Practices Act claim was denied because it wasn’t a “cooperative”. When I asked John, the guy at the USDA who had done the National Poultry Grower’s Association’s cooperative agreement, he said that JoAnn Waterfield’s attorney’s were over in his office area messing around and that they never came around that area before. JoAnn Waterfield was the Bush Administration’s GIPSA administrator who left after the completion of an Office of Investigation’s report on the agency not doing their job, hiding reports, and other scams came out in Dec. and she disappeared in Jan.
Money and power buys the majority in our government today so that we have no truth or justice. They have turned it into “just us” of them and their cronies.
I plead for everyone to support the new GIPSA rules so that family farmers can stopped getting farmed by the meat mafia.
We are slowly losing our country and the rule of law. We have the rule of men— very, very, rich men who rub elbows and influence our politicians and judges. They are changing all the rules to their favor and ignoring jury findings.
Thank you for sharing your story Tom. It puts a “face” on what exactly is happening, and why reforms are needed. It is awful that you (and so many others) are going through this.
While it is heartening to see the administration take some steps to balance the playing field, it is equally disheartening to see legislators’ uniform backlash.