Family farmers and advocates from the country’s top agricultural states will take to Capitol Hill to expose decades of abuse by the nation’s largest meatpacking companies. At a press conference on Tuesday, the group will launch its Stand With Farm Families campaign, sharing harrowing accounts of predatory contracts, rigged markets and retaliation that many farmers claim have driven them into bankruptcy.
The goal of the campaign is to urge the USDA to resurrect and add specific protections to its Farmer Fair Practices Rule, also known as the “GIPSA Rule.” A section of the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act meant to tame rampant abuses in the meatpacking industry, the rule was withdrawn in 2017 by the Trump Administration. The USDA announced that it would reexamine the rule this summer following a lawsuit by the Organization for Competitive Markets.
The whistleblower defense team of the Government Accountability Project, farmer case managers from the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, and advocates from the Organization of Competitive Markets will be delivering petitions to USDA, holding a press conference and congressional briefing, and meeting one-on-one with policy makers.
Press Conference Livestream
Tuesday, July 16, 2019, 9:30am ET / 8:30am CT
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RAFIUSA/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/rafiusa
(Hashtag: #StandWithFarmFamilies )
Farmers and issue experts speaking
Anthony “Tony” and Christy Grigsby — Orange Beach, Alabama — (Background Video)
A retired law-enforcement officer-turned chicken farmer and his wife, a third-generation farmer. Their retirement savings evaporated after he spoke up to his integrator about receiving poor quality chicks to raise and other unfair practices. As a result of speaking out, they were driven into bankruptcy.
Carlton Sanders — Forest, Mississippi — (Background Video)
The only Black farmer out of 173 contracting for Koch Foods in Mississippi. When he spoke out about discrimination at the company, they retaliated against him. The bank foreclosed on his farm and he filed for bankruptcy. He lost his family and his health due to the stress. Carlton was included in this ProPublica expose in June.
Al Davis — Hyannis, Nebraska
A former Nebraska state senator and cattle producer. He also serves on the board of the Organization for Competitive Markets. Nebraska is the leading red meat state in the nation and from his past experience raising cattle and working in the state legislature, Al has seen the negative economic impact unbridled corporate monopolies have on his state. Recently, a JBS Grand Island Nebraska beef processing plant was cited for having short paid cattle producers by under weighing cattle. Because of the lack of clear rules, individual farmers are not able to bring an individual claim for their damages. JBS is a Brazilian based corporation and largest beef processor in the U.S.
Vaughn Meyer — Reva, South Dakota
A former member of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Vice-President of the Organization for Competitive Markets. He raises cattle on the South Dakota ranch his grandfather homesteaded in 1909. Vaugn’s ranch is a purebred and commercial cow-calf operation. He knows first hand how corporate monopolies unfairly extract wealth from his ranch through unfair market pricing structures.
Greg Carey — Lawrenceville, Georgia
A contract chicken grower on two farms for over 20 years before the company–without warning–told him they would stop giving him chickens on one of his farms. Without an active poultry contract on one of the farms, he decided to list both for sale and reevaluate his options.
Rudy and Pat Howell — Fairmont, North Carolina
Rudy worked for DuPont Chemical company during its golden age and brought corporate rigor to his retirement work as a chicken farmer. He sees how the chicken farming industry could be improved, but has also seen firsthand how farmers have been mistreated.
Craig Watts — Fairmont, North Carolina
Craig is a former contract poultry farmer. He made headlines when he teamed up with Compassion in World Farming USA to expose issues rampant throughout the industry. Craig has been outspoken about the power giant meat companies wield over farmers. He regularly bears witness to the abuses poultry farmers endure in the contract system.
Mike Weaver — Fort Seybert, West Virginia
A retired federal game warden, Mike got into contract poultry farming 15 years ago to supplement his retirement. His wife works at the local school board and they also own an antique shop. The company lied about the costs involved, lied about the amount of control they would exert over his farm. He’s organized poultry growers across Virginia and West Virginia.
Jonathan and Connie Buttram — Albertville, Alabama
In spite of having 60 years combined experience as contract poultry growers, Jonathan and Connie saw their contracts ripped away when they spoke out about the grave injustices against farmers dished out by the poultry processors. Their children have also been the targets of retaliation and denied poultry grower contracts not because of anything they did but because their parents spoke out. After being blacklisted by the large poultry companies, Connie and Jonathan have downsized their operations and are working hard to save their family farm and home by raising cattle.
Chris Petersen — Clear Lake, Iowa
For 40 years, he has been raising hogs in the largest hog state in the U.S., Iowa. When Chris started raising hogs in 1978, he was one of over 512,000 hog farmers in the U.S. Today Chris is one of less than 70,000 hog producers. To survive as an independent family farmer, he was forced to reduce his production and now raises hogs for a specialty market. Chris knows that unless you are one of the insiders with one of the big meat packers there is simply not a market price for hogs in the commercial market.
Issue experts — Stand With Farm Families coalition
Sally Lee — Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA)
Director, Contract Ag Program
Amanda Hitt — Government Accountability Project (GAP)
202-457-0034 ext. 159, firstname.lastname@example.org
Director, Food Integrity Campaign
Angela Huffman — Organization for Competitive Markets
Communications and Research Director
Jake Davis — Family Farm Action