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Press Release: Leading Whistleblower Protection Organization Applauds USDA Proposed Rule to Combat Discrimination and Retaliation Against Farmers

Food Integrity Campaign | September 29, 2022


September 29, 2022

Leading Whistleblower Protection Organization Applauds USDA Proposed Rule to combat Discrimination and Retaliation against Farmers 

WASHINGTON—Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign experts and farmer whistleblowers are available to speak about the Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulations under the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act’s provisions prohibiting undue prejudice, unjust discrimination, and deception to provide for clearer, more effective standards to govern the modern marketplace.

Our whistleblower experts have been working for decades to protect meat and poultry producer whistleblowers from retaliation. This new rule is an important step in leveling the playing field between producers and the highly consolidated industry. As USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack states, “Highly concentrated local markets in livestock and poultry have increasingly left farmers, ranchers, growers, and producers vulnerable to a range of practices that unjustly exclude them from economic opportunities and undermine a transparent, competitive, and open market—which harms producers’ ability to deliver the quality, affordable food working families depend upon.”

Over the past 50 years, fewer and fewer multinational agribusiness corporations have come to control more and more of our food system—this has resulted in skyrocketing prices at grocery stores while big firms have reported record earnings. Currently, a handful of corporations control our food from farm to fork. With unchecked power, companies have standardized discriminatory and retaliatory practices that undermine competition.

Regarding retaliatory practices in poultry production, Rudy Howell, farmer whistleblower and client, said:

“Years of being a top producer and never having had a single disciplinary action against me, and still [the poultry company] sent me packing for speaking up about the consequences of corporate influence in the food industry. …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.” 

The proposed “Inclusive Competition and Market Integrity under the Packers and Stockyards Act” rule, aims to:

  • Prohibit certain prejudices and disadvantages against covered producers. Specifically, the proposed rule seeks to protect “market vulnerable individuals” who are those at heightened risk of adverse, exclusionary treatment in the marketplace, which may include on the basis of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation.
  • Ban retaliatory practices to protect activities such as: communicating with government agencies, joining producer or grower associations, being a witness in a proceeding against a packer or live poultry dealer, and asserting legal and contractual rights.
  • Identify unlawfully deceptive practices that violate the P&S Act with respect to contract formation, contract performance, contract termination and contract refusal.
  • Propose recordkeeping requirements to support evaluation of regulated entity compliance, including the ability to inspect relevant records, such as policies and procedures, staff training and producer information materials, data and testing, board of directors’ oversight materials, and other relevant materials.

In response to the new proposed rule our Government Accountability Project Food Integrity Campaign Director, Amanda Hitt, states:

“The USDA’s proposed rule is an acknowledgment of the economic impacts of discrimination and retaliation. It is our hope that this important step towards correcting an egregious imbalance of power leads to greater accountability, fairness to farmers, and ultimately a more just and sustainable food system.” 

Government Accountability Project represents multiple clients with alleged retaliatory actions and who are affected by the lack of competition and unchecked consolidation. We have whistleblower farmers and experts on staff willing to talk about the impacts this new rulemaking would have on the economics of this market and the impacts it will have on farmers to speak freely without retaliation.

For additional comments or to speak to FIC food whistleblower clients or staff experts, please contact:
Amanda Hitt, Food Integrity Campaign Director

Phone: 202-457-0034

The Food Integrity Campaign is a program of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, the organization’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.