Food Integrity Campaign | September 20, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 20, 2021
WASHINGTON – After 27 years of raising chickens for Perdue, Inc., Rudy Howell, a Government Accountability Project client and farmer, was terminated from his position for blowing the whistle on the chicken industry. Howell refuses to remain silent and is fighting back against Big Agriculture with a bold message that can be seen from the sky.
Howell mowed the 95ft-tall and 875-foot-wide phrase #FairShake into a 19-acre field next to his now empty chicken barns. Howell “hopes everybody sees” his concerns about rampant consolidation in the chicken industry. Rudy Howell’s story, and his message to the world, is featured in a powerful new video produced by Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign. The video, shot with the assistance of a local North Carolina Waterkeeper, will be appearing at the upcoming Farm Aid 2021 concert in Hartford, Connecticut September 25, 2021.
The #FairShake hashtag is part of the Fair Shake for Farmers Week of Action organized by the Food Integrity Campaign. The campaign brings together over 55 organizations from across various interests impacted by consolidation in agriculture, demonstrating the widespread demand for less corporate concentration in our food system. Concentration of corporate power has contributed to a host of problems such as racial inequity, climate change, rural degradation, animal cruelty, and worker/farmer exploitation. The #FairShake Week of Action is building momentum to drive forward historic antitrust measures recently proposed by USDA.
Rudy Howell owns and operates the Robert Miller poultry farm in Fairmont, North Carolina and was contracted exclusively to Perdue to raise chickens. Perdue awarded Howell “Top Producer” several times. Perdue never disciplined Howell, nor audited him for any potential noncompliance or performance issues, prior to his sudden retaliatory termination.
In Howell’s whistleblower retaliation complaint, he alleges that, among other issues, he began to recognize lapses of sanitation and health standards, as well as threats to animal welfare on the part of Perdue. He reported these conditions, but due to a lack of redress from his chain of command and unaddressed pleas to lawmakers and regulators, he decided to share his concerns with the media and the public. Shortly after making protected disclosures, his contract was terminated.
“I’m not the only farmer they did this to, and there are countless others too afraid to talk for fear the poultry companies will do them the same,” said Rudy Howell. “With unchecked power, companies have standardized exploitative practices that are harmful to farmers, to rural communities, to the animals themselves and to our environment. But it doesn’t have to be this way!”
As part of the #FairShake Week of Action, Howell and the Food Integrity Campaign have launched a national petition with MoveOn.org urging Congress to take action against corporate consolidation in agriculture. With over 5,600 signers already as of Monday, September 20, Rudy’s demand for a #FairShake for Farmers is poised to send a strong message following the Week of Action.
Additional questions about the Week of Action or Rudy Howell’s petition and video, please contact:
Contact: Amanda Hitt
Phone: (202) 457-0034