For decades, a federal law protected family farmers and ranchers from monopoly power in the food industry, until it was watered down in the courts in early 2000’s. In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Secretary Sonny Perdue, withdrew critical protections that would have strengthened this law and shielded family farmers and ranchers from abusive practices by big agribusiness corporations. In doing so, the administration has thrown America’s farmers and ranchers to the wolves, telling them their family businesses don’t matter.
Farmer Fair Practices Rules
Since 1980, 90% of U.S. hog farmers and 41% of U.S. cattle producers have gone out of business, and over one million U.S. farmers have been driven off the land. 71% of America’s poultry farmers now live below the federal poverty level. A huge contributor is the fact that our producer protection law, called the Packers & Stockyards Act, is not being enforced, and farmers cannot bring action for predatory and retaliatory practices by the largest livestock and poultry processing companies.
The Farmer Fair Practices Rules, also known as the GIPSA rules, would have stopped this injustice but the administration withdrew these protections. More than 80 farm and food organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of farmers, called on President Trump to reverse this decision, but we were ignored.
With the help of Democracy Forward Foundation, we sued the Trump administration in December 2017 for rolling back the Farmer Fair Practices Rules. In December 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an unfavorable decision in our lawsuit. The court has denied our petition for review and will not force the USDA to implement the rules. Our attorneys are now reviewing our legal options and we are looking at other avenues to protect America’s farmers and ranchers.
OCM v. USDA Petition for Review as Filed (12/14/17)
Brief in Support of Petition for Review as Filed (3/30/18)
Petitioners’ Addendum as Filed (3/30/18)
USDA Respondent Brief (6/29/18)
OCM Reply Brief as Filed (7/30/18)
Court Opinion (12/21/18)
Court Order (12/21/18)
Meet Our Plaintiffs
Jonathan and Connie’s Story
Jonathan and Connie took out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to raise chickens under contract for Koch Foods, one of the nation’s largest poultry processors. They caught Koch Foods employees on video repeatedly tampering with a scale to lighten the reported weight of their chickens, cheating them out of tens of thousands of dollars in pay for their hard work. When they spoke out about the company’s unfair practices, it retaliated against them by canceling their contract. Their family has been blackballed by the small number of chicken processors operating in their region that issue contracts, so their children will not be able to carry their family farm into a fourth generation. They could have sought recourse under the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, but the administration withdrew those protections.
Jim is a cattle producer from Nebraska. He felt the sting of retaliation and predatory practices from a meatpacker when he stood up to them several times after being shorted on payment for his cattle. They don’t like it when livestock producers push back or question their ways; it’s their way or the highway. They blackballed Jim in his professional business as an agent for all-natural feed additives. Today, Jim wants to stay in the cattle business, but his experience has taught him that you have to be watchful when the government fails to do its job and allows corporate agribusinesses to wield unchecked power.
Stand with America’s Family Farmers
In November 2017, more than 80 U.S. farm and food organizations called on President Trump to reverse his administration’s decision to roll back protections from corporate agribusiness abuses. The administration failed to act. This is why Organization for Competitive Markets is seeking justice through the courts.
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Stand with America’s family farmers and ranchers and against the predatory and retaliatory practices of big agribusiness interests. Add your name to call on the Trump administration to reverse its decision to side with large corporations over America’s family farmers.
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