Over the last few months I’ve witnessed a 3 ring circus going on in the US House of Representatives and if ever there were a time that faith in our government was at an all time low, it is at this moment in time.
Despite the expressed majority in favor of the USDA Grain Inspection Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) Proposed Rule change relating to fairness in the livestock and poultry industry, the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee mark up of their appropriations bill yesterday included a provision to stop USDA from implementing a Final Rule.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports that Representative Kaptur (OH) spoke out against the provision saying the bill would prevent USDA from implementing the rule even though the 2008 Farm Bill explicitly directs USDA to do so. Kaptur has been a long time proponent for family farms.
I’ve written several posts relating to the Proposed Rule and the issue has become larger than life. Many contract poultry growers have come out of hiding from the fear of losing their contract for speaking out about the many problems within the poultry industry. It’s a big no, no as was revealed in Food INC.
Through contracts to raise livestock and poultry, corporations cohabiting in farmer’s neck of the woods have absolute control over the farms and farmers they contract with. The USDA GIPSA Proposed Rule would go a long way in ensuring fairness and level the playing field for farmers in their contract relations with corporate agribusinesses. Self described by farmers as being “serfs on their own land” has no place in today’s world.
One of the major players lobbying in opposition to a Final Rule implementation, the National Chicken Council (NCC), representing industrial chicken companies says that the proposed competitive market rule by USDA GIPSA “will fundamentally change how chicken companies operate especially with contract growers”.
Intimation from industry has been that companies would no longer contract with farmers they would own the farms that produce chickens for them. For those of us who are familiar with poultry industry maneuvering, subtle and indirect hints of putting farmers out of business is nothing new. Intimidation/coercion is what we call it! I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about subtle hints that the chicken industry will move operations to a foreign country being used while lobbying congress!
The one thing that both sides of the issue agree on is that the Proposed Rule will bring fundamental change. From the farmer standpoint the change would be a positive step forward however industry is adamant that this change will not happen.
What comes to mind is the question that if everything is wonderful and we don’t need change, why is this issue being vigorously debated? Why did farmers decide “contract termination be damned” and come out of hiding to support the Proposed Rule Change?
One thing certain about the issue is that corporate agribusiness has shown its hand and can no longer say that they support their partners the farm families they contract with. Farmers want and need the fundamental change that the Proposed Rule would bring and their partners in the chicken industry are fighting against them.