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