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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Fern’s AG Insider: Farm activists seek ‘robust’ fair-play rules at USDA

October 11, 2019

Note: This article, featuring details about FIC’s participation in the 10/10/2019 petition drop, was originally published here.

Farm activists seek ‘robust’ fair-play rules at USDA

October 10, 2019 – The USDA should provide strong protections for livestock and poultry growers in their dealings with meatpackers and processors, said farm activists on Thursday in delivering petitions signed by more than 84,000 people in support of a “robust” fair-practices rule. The USDA says it will reopen its rule-making process to write a new version of the regulation. Producers have complained for years of unfair treatment at the hands of processors. The “Stand with Family Farmers” petition says that farmers should not be at risk of retaliation for airing complaints about their treatment by packers; that growers should be free to join producer associations; that growers should be paid based on their contributions to production, not factors controlled by the processor; and that there should be specific rules for each livestock sector to protect its producers from undue prejudice at the hands of processors. The fair-practices rule would be the successor to the “GIPSA rule,” named after a now-defunct USDA agency and withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2017. One of the groups supporting the petition drive, the Organization for Competitive Markets, unsuccessfully sued in federal court to force a reinstatement of the GIPSA rule. Among its features, the GIPSA rule allowed producers to sue meat processors if they believed they were treated unfairly, an easier standard of proof than the current requirement to show that a practice by a processor harmed the entire industry. The largest U.S. cattle and hog groups opposed the rule. They said it would invite lawsuits against premiums that are offered to producers who meet specific goals, such as animals with high-quality meat or that are raised without antibiotics. The petitions were delivered to the USDA by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the Government Accountability Project. Also supporting the petition drive was the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA.