Protecting Food. Empowering Whistleblowers.

Food Integrity Campaign Blog

MEDIA ALERT: Nationwide Group of Family Farmers to Expose Abuse in Meat Industry, Demand Action From USDA

FIC Staff | July 15, 2019

Family farmers and ranchers from across the Midwest and Southeast will gather at the National Press Club to expose widespread abuse at the hands of the nation’s largest meat companies. They will demand that the USDA pass a rule this summer that protects farm families from corporate retaliation for speaking out and restores fairness to the American meat market. Following their press conference, farmers will meet directly with members of Congress and their staff to explain what they have faced and why they need a strong rule in place.

Over 90% of the chicken, beef and pork in America comes from farms contracted by and in a market controlled by a handful of multinational meat processing companies. These huge companies have consolidated their power so there’s no competition and the livestock prices paid to independent family farmers are at rock bottom. Farmers will share their personal stories of how these companies have locked them into predatory contracts, squeezed them out of their rightful share of the food dollar, and retaliated against them for speaking out by taking actions that sabotage farm earnings and bankrupt families.

Farm families will be joined by the whistleblower defense team of the Government Accountability Project; farmer case managers from the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA; and advocates from the Organization of Competitive Markets fighting for economic justice in the agriculture sector.


Time & Location:
Tuesday, July 16, 2019 – 9:30am ET / 8:30am CT

Press Conference
9:30am ET / 8:30am CT
National Press Club
529 14th St. NW,
13th Floor – Zenger Room
Washington, DC 20045
QR code for entry into National Press Club

Press Conference Livestream
9:30am ET / 8:30am CT
(Hashtag: #StandWithFarmFamilies )

Congressional Briefing
2:00pm ET / 1:00pm CT
Hart Senate Office Building
120 Constitution Ave NE,
Room 216
Washington, DC 20002


Farmers and issue experts speaking: 

Anthony “Tony” and Christy Grigsby — Orange Beach, Alabama — (Background Video)

A retired law-enforcement officer-turned chicken farmer and his wife, a third-generation farmer. Their retirement savings evaporated after he spoke up to his integrator about receiving poor quality chicks to raise and other unfair practices. As a result of speaking out, they were driven into bankruptcy.

Carlton Sanders — Forest, Mississippi —  (Background Video)

The only Black farmer out of 173 contracting for Koch Foods in Mississippi. When he spoke out about discrimination at the company, they retaliated against him. The bank foreclosed on his farm and he filed for bankruptcy. He lost his family and his health due to the stress. Carlton was included in this ProPublica expose in June.

Al Davis — Hyannis, Nebraska

A former Nebraska state senator and cattle producer. He also serves on the board of the Organization for Competitive Markets. Nebraska is the leading red meat state in the nation and from his past experience raising cattle and working in the state legislature, Al has seen the negative economic impact unbridled corporate monopolies have on his state. Recently, a JBS Grand Island Nebraska beef processing plant was cited for having short paid cattle producers by under weighing cattle. Because of the lack of clear rules, individual farmers are not able to bring an individual claim for their damages. JBS is a Brazilian based corporation and largest beef processor in the U.S.

Vaughn Meyer — Reva, South Dakota

A former member of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Vice-President of the Organization for Competitive Markets. He raises cattle on the South Dakota ranch his grandfather homesteaded in 1909. Vaugn’s ranch is a purebred and commercial cow-calf operation. He knows first hand how corporate monopolies unfairly extract wealth from his ranch through unfair market pricing structures.

Greg Carey — Lawrenceville, Georgia

A contract chicken grower on two farms for over 20 years before the company–without warning–told him they would stop giving him chickens on one of his farms. Without an active poultry contract on one of the farms, he decided to list both for sale and reevaluate his options.

Rudy and Pat Howell — Fairmont, North Carolina   

Rudy worked for DuPont Chemical company during its golden age and brought corporate rigor to his retirement work as a chicken farmer. He sees how the chicken farming industry could be improved, but has also seen firsthand how farmers have been mistreated.

Craig Watts — Fairmont, North Carolina

Craig is a former contract poultry farmer. He made headlines when he teamed up with Compassion in World Farming USA to expose issues rampant throughout the industry. Craig has been outspoken about the power giant meat companies wield over farmers.  He regularly bears witness to the abuses poultry farmers endure in the contract system.

Mike Weaver — Fort Seybert, West Virginia   

A retired federal game warden, Mike got into contract poultry farming 15 years ago to supplement his retirement. His wife works at the local school board and they also own an antique shop. The company lied about the costs involved, lied about the amount of control they would exert over his farm. He’s organized poultry growers across Virginia and West Virginia.

Jonathan and Connie Buttram — Albertville, Alabama  

In spite of having 60 years combined experience as contract poultry growers, Jonathan and Connie saw their contracts ripped away when they spoke out about the grave injustices against farmers dished out by the poultry processors. Their children have also been the targets of retaliation and denied poultry grower contracts not because of anything they did but because their parents spoke out. After being blacklisted by the large poultry companies, Connie and Jonathan have downsized their operations and are working hard to save their family farm and home by raising cattle.

Chris Petersen — Clear Lake, Iowa 

For 40 years, he has been raising hogs in the largest hog state in the U.S., Iowa. When Chris started raising hogs in 1978, he was one of over 512,000 hog farmers in the U.S. Today Chris is one of less than 70,000 hog producers. To survive as an independent family farmer, he was forced to reduce his production and now raises hogs for a specialty market. Chris knows that unless you are one of the insiders with one of the big meat packers there is simply not a market price for hogs in the commercial market.


Issue experts:

Sally Lee — Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA)
Director, Contract Ag Program

Amanda Hitt — Government Accountability Project
202-457-0034 ext. 159,
Director, Food Integrity Campaign

Jake Davis — Family Farm Action and Organization for Competitive Markets
Policy Director

Angela Huffman — Organization for Competitive Markets
Director of Communications and Research