Implementing GIPSA rule

ATTN: Agriculture & Appropriations Legislative Aides

August 3, 2011

United States Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress directed USDA to propose rules to address unfair, deceptive and anti-competitive trade practices that have become rampant in the livestock and poultry sectors. Congress included these provisions to address concerns over the increasingly abusive and anti-competitive trade practices employed by meatpacker and poultry companies that have harmed farmers, ranchers, growers and consumers. Meatpacker and poultry companies opposed these provisions in the Senate, but compromise language was included in the final Farm Bill requiring USDA to use their existing authority under the 1921 Packers & Stockyard Act to take action.

USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) issued a proposed rule in June 2010. USDA received more than 66,000 public comments on the proposed rule, most of which were supportive. The same meatpacker and poultry companies that opposed the strong farmer and rancher protection provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill are now fighting the regulations to implement those provisions. These special interests, joined by purported farm groups that have meatpackers entrenched on their boards, have launched a misleading public relations campaign that distorts the provisions of the proposed rule.

The proposed rule includes many commonsense measures that protect farmers, growers and ranchers from abusive and unfair treatment at the hands of the meatpackers and poultry companies. These safeguards include:

  • Prohibitions against company retaliation against farmers for speaking out about problems within the livestock industry, joining other farmers to voice concerns to seek improvements, or raising concerns with federal officials. Today, meatpackers and poultry companies can and do economically retaliate against farmers that exercise these legal rights;
  • Sensible protections for contract poultry and hog growers that make expensive facility investments or upgrades on their farms to meet packer or poultry company requirements;
  • Requirements to provide growers and ranchers with information necessary to make wise business decisions regarding their operations;
  • Disclosure and transparency requirements to eliminate deception in the way packers, swine contractor and poultry companies pay farmers;
  • Eliminating collusion between packers in auction markets;
  • Clarification of the types of industry practices the agency considers unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or a granting of unreasonable preference or advantage. These are all terms used in the existing statute to prevent unfair trade practices, but these broad terms have never been defined in regulations.
  • Clarifying the ambiguity in interpretation of the terms of the Packers & Stockyards Act. Such Ambiguity can lead to litigation as farmers and packers attempt to clarify the intent of the Act. Moreover, added clarity would enable the agency to address unfair trade practices, which likely would further reduce litigation.
  • Expressly ensuring that meatpackers can pay premium prices for premium livestock, but prohibit companies from unfairly offering select producers sweetheart deals but paying other producers less for the same quality, number, kind and delivery of livestock.
  • Recordkeeping requirements that would enable regulators to identify unfair trade practices while ensuring that livestock producers and companies can offer justified premiums or discounts.

Unfortunately, under pressure from meatpackers and poultry companies, the House approved a legislative rider in its FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that would prevent USDA from taking any further action on this regulation. The provision would even prohibit USDA from analyzing the 66,000 public comments received on the proposed rule and from completing an economic analysis of the rule. The meatpackers and poultry companies oppose the sensible transparency and disclosure provisions of the proposed rule that would shine sunlight onto their unfair practices. The two largest general farm organizations in the United States – the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union – have joined with over 140 farmers, consumer and community groups across the nation to oppose this rider.

The 190 undersigned groups urge you to stand with our nation’s farmers, ranchers, growers and consumers to oppose the meatpacker and poultry special interest efforts to insulate themselves from federal scrutiny of their anti-competitive behavior and unfair treatment of farmers and ranchers. Congress should allow USDA to move forward expeditiously to implement a final rule that will strengthen and clarify the Packers & Stockyards Act with commonsense protections for farmers and ranchers.

8th Day Center for Justice (IL)
Adams County North Dakota Farmers Union
Added Value (NY)
Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association
Alliance for a Sustainable Future (PA)
Ambler Environmental Advisory Council (PA)
American Agriculture Movement
American Federation of Government Employees (AFL-CIO), Local 3354, USDA-St. Louis
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association (WI)
Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake Counties Farmers Union (OH)
Assateague Coastal Trust (MD)
Assateague COASTKEEPER (MD)
Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association (BFAA) (NC)
BLK ProjeK (NY)
BUGS: Black Urban Growers (NY)
Bronx Food and Sustainability Coalition (NY)
Brooklyn Food Coalition (NY)
Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH)
Bull Mountain Landowners Association (MT)
California Dairy Campaign
California Farmers Union
California Food & Justice Coalition
California Institute for Rural Studies
Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform
Campaign for Family Farms & the Environment (CFFE)
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
C.A.S.A. del Llano (TX)
Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri
Cattle Producers of Louisiana
Cattle Producers of Washington
Center for New Community (IL)
Center for Rural Affairs
Church Women United of New York State
Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
Citizens for Sanity.Com (FL)
Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (MD)
Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) (CA)
Community Farm Alliance (KY)
Community Food Security Coalition
Community Vision Council (NY)
Contract Poultry Growers of the Virginias
The Cornucopia Institute (WI)
Crawford Stewardship Project (WI)
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice (TN)
Dakota Resource Council (ND)
Dakota Rural Action (SD)
Dawson Resource Council (MT)
Delta Enterprise Network (AR)
Earthworks Urban Farm
East New York Farms!/United Community Centers
Endangered Habitats League (CA)
Environment Maryland
Environmental Health Watch (OH)
Family Farm Defenders (WI)
Farm Aid
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (TX)
Farmworker Association of Florida
Fay-Penn Economic Development Council (PA)
Federation of Southern Cooperatives
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus (OH)
Flatbush Farm Share (NY)
Food Chain Workers Alliance (CA)
Food Democracy Now!< br/> Food First
Food Freedom
Food for Maine's Future
Food & Water Watch
Friends of Family Farmers (OR)
Friends of the Earth
Gardenshare: Healthy Farms, Healthy Food, Everybody Eats (NY)
Georgia Poultry Justice Alliance
Grassroots International
Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit
Hattie Carthan Community Garden (NY)
Hattie Carthan Herban Farm (NY)
Hmong 18 Council of South Arkansas
Hmong Association Inc. (AR & OK)
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Hunger Action Network of New York State
Idaho Rural Council
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Independent Beef Association of North Dakota
Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Institute for Responsible Technology
Intertribal Agriculture Council
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa Farmers Union
Island Grown Initiative (MA)
Jackson County, South Dakota, Board of Commissioners
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (MD)
Just Food (NY)
Kansas Farmers Union
Kansas Rural Center
The Land Loss Prevention Project (NC)
La Familia Verde (NY)
La Finca Del Sur (NY)
Land Stewardship Project (MN)
Local Matters (OH)
Madison Farm to Fork (MT)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (WI)
Michigan Farmer’s Union
Michigan Interfaith Power and Light
Michigan Land Trustees
Michigan Organic Food & Farm Alliance
Midwest Environmental Advocates (IL)
Minnesota Farmers Union
Missionary Society of St. Columban (MD)
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
Missouri’s Best Beef Cooperative
Missouri Farmers Union
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Montana Farmers Union
Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative (OK)
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA)
National Family Farm Coalition
National Farmers Organization
National Farmers Union
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
National Organic Coalition
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
National Young Farmers Coalition
Nebraska Farmers Union
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics (NE WIFE)
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility (TN)
New Agrarian Center (OH)
New England Farmers Union
New York City Community Garden Coalition (NY)
North Carolina Contract Poultry Growers Association
North Dakota Farmers Union
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts (NOFA-Mass.)
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc. (NOFA-NY)
Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
NYC Foodscape
Oglala Lakota Livestock and Land Owners Association (SD)
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA)
Ohio Environmental Council
Ohio Environmental Stewardship Alliance
Ohio Farmers Union
Oregon Livestock Producers Association
Oregon Rural Action
Organic Consumers Association
Organic Farming Research Foundation
Organic Seed Alliance
Organization for Competitive Markets
PCC Natural Markets (WA)
Peach Bottom Concerned Citizens Group (PBCCG) (PA)
Pennsylvania Farmers Union
People’s Food Co-op (MI)
Pesticide Action Network North America
Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)
Progressive Agriculture Organization (PA)
Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America
(R-CALF USA)
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Rural Advancement Foundation International—USA
Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH) (NC)
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
Slow Food Portland (ME)
Slow Food USA
Slow Food USA - Rocky Mountain Region< br/> Small Planet Institute
Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (ID)
South Dakota Farmers Union
South Dakota Livestock Auction Markets Association
South Dakota Stockgrowers Association
Southwest Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics
Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association (WA)
Sustain LA (CA)
Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA)
Tidal Creek Cooperative (Food Market) (NC)
Tilth Producers of Washington
Trappe Landing Farm & Native Sanctuary (MD)
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
United Poultry Growers Association
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
Western Colorado Congress
Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)
West Side Campaign Against Hunger (NY)
WhyHunger
Williams County Alliance (OH)
Wisconsin Farmers Union
Women, Food and Agriculture Network (IA)
Yellowstone Valley Citizens Council (MT)

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