NSAC's Blog

Take Advantage of the Summer Congressional Recess

August 4, 2010



You don’t have to go all the way to Washington DC to meet with your Congressman, Senators or their staff.   Five times a year your legislators come home to you!  This summer the House and Senate are in recess from August 9th through September 10th.   During a recess your legislators will head for their home state or district to meet with constituents, attend public events and fundraisers and generally reconnect with the locals.  Town hall meetings and other public events are great opportunities to ask questions and to inform policy makers and their staff of your concerns.

This is your opportunity to tell your Senators and Representatives that you support USDA’s proposed rules to strengthen and clarify the protections for farmers and ranchers under the Packers & Stockyards Act.  The new rules promise to outlaw preferential pricing, expand producer rights to sue over unfair and deceptive practices and compel greater contract fairness for poultry and livestock producers.

The rules have been praised by NSAC and by many major farm organizations including the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund-United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) and more than 60 other organizations who signed this letter in support of the new rules.   The Packers and Poultry Processors, however, are strongly opposed to the new rules.

Ask your legislators to stand with family farmers on fair competition and fair contracts.

  • Respectfully urge your legislators 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 let him know they support the proposed rule.

Find your legislators’ public meetings schedules by calling their district office.  Go to Congress.org and type in your zip code.  Click on the legislator’s name, and then on the contact tab for the phone number for the district office.   Call and request a schedule of any town hall meetings or public events.  Let them know you would like a moment at the event to speak to your legislator about the USDA fair competition and fair contracts rules.


The Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 makes it unlawful for meat and poultry packers and processors and companies that contract with farmers to raise hogs and poultry from engaging in any “unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practice or device,” or to “make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person or locality in any respect, or subject any particular person or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect.”

But until now, USDA has never issued the regulations necessary to define these broad prohibitions, in order to adequately enforce the protections for livestock and poultry farmers.  In the 2008 Farm Bill, a majority of the full Congress voted to include directives to USDA to issue the regulations to define these prohibitions.  In addition, Congress told USDA to clarify how the Act should be applied to give individual farmers and ranchers a fair shake when dealing with the large corporate entities that control our nation’s meat and poultry processing.

Here are just some of the measures in the proposed rules that help level the playing field for farmers and ranchers:

1.    For poultry growers, the proposed rules prohibit a poultry company from

  • requiring growers to make equipment changes if the existing equipment is in good working order, unless the company provides adequate compensation to the grower;
  • canceling a grower’s contract or reducing the number of birds placed on their farm based solely on the failure of the grower to make equipment changes, so long as existing equipment is in good working order.
  • interfering with a grower’s ability to sell their farm by requiring large upgrades to their poultry houses after the grower has announced their plans to sell their farm;

For more information on how the GIPSA rules help poultry producers, go to the Rural Advancement Foundation International USA (RAFI) website.

2.    For livestock producers, the proposed rules would:

  • prohibit packers from selling livestock to each other and restrict livestock buyers from acquiring cattle for more than one buyer – both these practices can be used to manipulate the markets and lower prices for farmers and ranchers; and
  • end discrimination against producers based only upon the volume of cattle sold, rather than on real differences in the cost to the packers and processors.

For more information on how the GIPSA rules help livestock producers, go to the Western Organization of Resource Councils website.

3. For both livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers, the proposed rule would clarify that when a farmer or rancher shows individual harm because of unfair or deceptive practices by livestock and poultry processors, the farmer and rancher does not also need to a show harm to competition throughout the livestock or poultry market.  USDA has the authority under the Packer & Stockyards Act to clarify for the courts that farmers and ranchers do not need to show this “competitive injury”  to the market as a whole,  in order have the legal protections for fair play provided under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Categories: Action Alerts, Competition & Anti-trust, Local & Regional Food Systems

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