The recent Farm Bill debate featured a robust defense of the rights of whistleblowing contract farmers. Leading the charge was Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). Livestock and poultry contract farmers enter into agreements with large companies to grow animals for meat. Often, these contracts include strict provisions to prevent farmers from speaking up in the face of unfair treatment such as paying farmers less than they are owed and pitting farmers against each other in opaque pricing systems.
Senator Booker introduced an amendment that would have protected farmers from retaliation when they speak up about abusive practices by their corporate employers. Had these protections been in place already, they would have made it easier for whistleblowers like poultry farmer Craig Watts, whom the Food Integrity Campaign represents, to have spoken up safely without fear of retaliation.
Consider the powerful speech Senator Booker made during the Senate floor debate:
“Recently I had some contract farmers come into my office to meet with me. These farmers were terrified, terrified of coming to D.C. and actually talking to Congresspeople and Senators. They were terrified that the integrators they contract with might find out that they were talking to us and raising legitimate concerns about the abuses they were suffering. This is in the United States of America…
…We’re making our farmers, our small business people afraid of even talking about the abuses they’re suffering from these massive, multinational, agricultural corporations…Our contract farmers should not have to live like this. They should not have to be afraid that they will be retaliated against for engaging in lawful activities like speaking with members of Congress or the USDA or for joining together in producer associations.”
We at FIC are grateful for Sen. Booker’s leadership on this important issue. Let’s join him in fighting for the whistleblowers who fight for the integrity of our food system.