By Sabrina Rodriguez
Livestock farmers from Alabama, Nebraska and Kansas outlined in a court brieflast week why they support an ongoing lawsuit against Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that seeks a judicial review of the withdrawal of two rules aimed at balancing the power between meatpacking companies and contract growers — better know as the GIPSA rules.
Alabama poultry farmers Jonathan and Connie Buttram are both plaintiffs in the case that was brought by Democracy Forward, a nonprofit legal group, on behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets. The GIPSA rules, if they had been finalized, would have confirmed that the major poultry companies terminating contracts with Mr. Buttram’s farms in retaliation to his advocacy efforts constituted a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Similarly, Kansas cattle producer Mike Callicrate, who is not a plaintiff in the case, has experienced retaliatory and discriminatory treatment, which he more easily could have challenged in court had the interim final rules not been pulled.
At the time of his decision, Perdue said the rules would have invited “unnecessary and unproductive litigation.” The secretary also said the USDA will watch out for contract growers, individually and collectively, to ensure they aren’t disadvantaged by unfair, uncompetitive rules.