Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

I recently had a contract chicken farmer, Craig Watts, ask me for advice after hearing the news that our illustrious politicians had delivered a crippling blow to farmers and consumers.

Specifically, the farmer was referring to the gutting of the USDA Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards (GIPSA) Final Rule which would have dealt with many of the abuses contract farmers face. Known as the GIPSA Rule and something that I’ve opined about many times, House Republicans and Mealy Mouthed Democrats allowed language in a budget bill that defunded the GIPSA Rule which would have provided “commonsense protections that allow small livestock producers to compete and check the abusive practices of the poultry industry” says Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch. House Republicans Drive More Nails Into Livestock Rule Coffin

I had no good advice to give Craig and I fear for his livelihood. He has been one of the most outspoken contract chicken farmers about the GIPSA Rule and took a public stand against the abusive practices towards farmers in the poultry industry. Although no laughing matter, my first thought was to tell Craig to cover his head and duck.

On a serious note I told him to prepare for contract termination because he will be retaliated against for speaking out. One way or another, Craig will be paid back and or illustrious politicians, who claim that they support the farmer, have assured that he has no protection. Over the past twenty years or more, I’ve seen this happen many times to farmers.

It further worries me that farmers were led down a path of destruction by our government. I’ve had my doubts from the very beginning of the latest attempt by farmers to reign in Big Ag from the monopolization of food production and the anti-competitive nature of contract farming.

USDA and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) held field hearings all over the country and encouraged farmers to speak out. Farmers believed in this process especially since they had the DOJ covering their backs……. many spoke. Even still, with the mighty DOJ at their backs, some farmers gave private testimony. A statement in itself about the fear farmer’s harbor!

When USDA finally proposed the GIPSA Rule and opened a public comment period over 60,000 comments were received by the agency and the majority was in favor of the rule. At this juncture of the game some farmers were still fearful and submitted unsigned comments so that they could not be identified by Big Ag.

Farmers have written letters and spoken in person to USDA and their illustrious politicians who supposedly represent them and have put their selves in a precarious position. Anyone who really knows me also knows that I hold no faith in our elected officials whether they are Republican, Democrat, Tea Partier, or Independent.

My cynical view overwhelms me when I travel to our Nation’s Capital because I get the feeling that our illustrious politicians are doing nothing more than paying “lip service” to their constituents. They tell you what you want to hear and send you on your way. They then turn around and “toe the line” from wherever the most power, money, and influence come from. It’s cronyism at its best!

Personally, I have no faith in our government to do what is right for the majority. I don’t think that I’m alone in my cynicism about our elected officials. On occasion I think there are some people who run for public office with good intentions toward doing the right thing. When they reach the destination of being elected to office they quickly learn that their ideals have no place in the political machine that runs our country.

In this particular situation, the GIPSA Rule, is a really bad joke that has been played on farmers and Big Ag is laughing all the way to the bank! I hope our illustrious politicians and government agencies feel good about selling out the American farmer and leaving them to suffer the tyranny of Big Ag.

Comments on: "GIPSA Rule – A Really Bad Joke" (4)

  1. Thank you, Carol, for expressing what many, many farmers have experienced. It isn’t only the politicians. It is the vein of corruption that they have been able to apply to the federal Judiciary as well. One can have the best laws in the land but if they are not enforced, they are not worth the paper they are written at best and at worst are a type of security that would lead a family farmer into a very, very bad investment.

    This GIPSA rule was derailed with money that giant corporations have stolen from the market and from family farmers. It is the most corrupting influence in what seems to be an overwhelming majority of politicians both new and old. We are allowing corporations to set the agenda, as they have on many of the Congressional hearings on the GIPSA rules. These committees used their power to highlight the meat packer’s interests over family farmers. The Packers and Stockyards Act prohibits meat packers from certain non market actions but the Congressional hearings were filled with meat packers crying so they would not be held accountable for their frauds on family farmers. What the federal courts handed back to the Congress became nothing more than another fraud in our economy that opportunistic Congressmen could use to garnish more money by deregulating the industry more. Our government is for sale to the highest bidder and those bidders are buying the system against the 99%. It is nothing more than criminal and one of the reasons Congress is held with such little regard by the public. Politicians are selling the public interest while the Supreme Court sits by and winks and nods.

    There can be no greater example of this than the hypocrisy coming from on of the leading presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich. While blasting the politicians who allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to get away with some of the most damaging frauds in the financial industry, Newt Gingrich was doing the same. The corruption in our country has become institutionalized by the politicians and judges who will not hold accountable people who deserve to be held accountable. It is only common sense that the largess from these type of characters only makes the problems worse and more ingrained in our political and economic system.

    A lesson from my wife’s high school class is to be drawn here. If she allowed an atmosphere where cheating was allowed and the cheaters were able to get value out of cheating, her whole class would be taught to cheat. Indeed, it seems that is exactly the case with our politicians. They have become figureheads for the cheating going on in our economy and the institutions set up by our founding fathers to correct these abuses are going on. We are setting ourselves up for an atmosphere where the rule of law gives way to the rule of men— the ones who cheat the most end up being the winners. When this happens, as well as when it happens in my wife’s classroom, we all lose.

    The answer to this problem is accountability. It seems our federal courts are giving the crowd on Wall Street (Citibank the most recent example) a slap on the hand. The vast majority of the frauds are being settled with pennies on the dollar. Cheating pays.

    At this critical fork in the road we need to exercise the tools our founding fathers gave us. We need to vote politicians out of office who are collaborators masquerading as public servants. We need the Congress to investigate what amounts to the meat mafia’s control over the system that is meant to correct their cheating. We need to, as they are doing in the Penn. State program after years of abuse, to find out what systems and what people are to blame and hold them accountable. Hand slapping is not an equitable remedy. As Newt put it, we need for these people to go to jail. For that we need only look the majority in Congress and their extensions in the Federal Court system and the Department of Justice. As with the Penn. State coaching child abuse scandal, the scandals have gone on long enough. The 99% are tired of the 1% who hold power selling the principles to the principals to the highest bidder just so they can get re-elected to do it over again. We need accountability and we need it before the next victim falls prey.

    It is not a case in the poultry industry that people are not speaking up as it is alleged with Coach Sandusky. It is a case of those who stand up becoming another victim instead of getting justice because our system has the same kind of institutional corruption that brought down the most loved coach at Penn. State. We have to hold those in power who do nothing to the same standard.

    Tom

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  2. Peco is keeping people out 46 to 56 days, then giving them reduced placement of about 2500 birds per house, and picking them up at about 1/2 pound lighter. I’m sure they are doing the best they can do, but how much more do you lose if you don’t take chicks for…indefinitely, spend no money for bedding, electricity, or gas? If growers could get their shit together, the company can’t fire everybody, the banks can’t foreclose on everybody, and things will …WILL change.

    The growers will hear from the banks publicly and first, but then the Integrators will get an earful, then they will hear from the electricity companies, the gas companies, and the local governments.

    When density was maxed, out times were less than 2 weeks, and weights were normal there was a huge downside to stirring the pot with no guarantees. Now, with densities way off and a pretty good chance growers will get 3 batches a year instead of 5, what is there to lose? It will take growers decades to recover from what is going on. I wish we had a contract so I could refuse birds. I also heard from a grower who is having a 46 day out time on 8 houses, that he has to do a bunch of new upgrades by December. He already has computers, vent doors, and new heaters that Townsend mandated a year before they went belly up.

    Comments from fellow growers:

    >>>Refuse birds. In 8 weeks there will be no birds to process, but there will be layers to feed, breeders to feed, lights, plant taxes to pay, (taxes are a year behind remember, so taxes due are on a regular year), loan payments, etc.<<<

    John,
    This may be the last option that we have??? Unfortunately, a lot of growers do not realize the power that we hold… Many are scared to do anything, lest they upset the apple cart, and many others do not understand how badly they are being screwed. In my opinion petitioning the government for help is basically a waste of our time (altho I do appreciate those who continue to do so) I am a loss to know what to do next ?????
    Rick

    —– Original Message —–
    From: john
    To: politicalchicken@yahoogroups.com
    Sent: Saturday, November 19, 2011 12:17 PM
    Subject: [politicalchicken] sorry state of affairs

    Tom and All,

    I keep saying I'm not going to saddle up anymore, then do. When I got Becky's form letter asking me to call Senator Pryor I wrote her back that I thought it was a waste of time, but would do it and I did. I also told someone…maybe the folks here, that the integrators through their owned politicians and agencies would never allow changes in the law…situation…. to emerge unless they had a "Plan B" in place that was superior. An example I gave was the "Walk through" at the time of sale so they get their upgrades paid for out of the seller's equity, and no longer have to pay even the inadequate premium that has been typical, and exempts them from extending contracts to pay off Upgrade loans. Looks like they are going to get both.

    At the end of last year when Townsend went Bankrupt the new owners put a guy in charge of growers who hated us. He hated us because we always kicked everybody else off the page despite refusing to do many of his pet upgrades. (Not always, sometimes shit happens, but most of the time by a wide margin). Peco decided to cut placement by 300,000 chicks a week, and Marty MCGuire was told to decide which farms to cut. Guess what? I mention his name in hopes that he will try to sue me, in which case I will pay off my note and donate my SS to charity.

    Back to what might work and an amazing fact. My health and age forced us to get a hired hand after Townsend overtly killed 3 sales of our farm; realtors would testify, but Townsend is bankrupt you see. The hired hands did not work out well, but had little to do with us losing our contract. Here is the amazing part. Without chickens we didn't need a hired hand, electricity, or propane. Even with property taxes, but excluding the note and insurance, we have more money left each month from our SS than we did with chickens! We Have been subsidizing a $40,000,000 a year company with our Social Security and of course Medicare.

    I suspect a lot of other growers are in the same or better boats considering off farm jobs, cattle, and row crops. They should all just "Occupy Poultry". Refuse birds. In 8 weeks there will be no birds to process, but there will be layers to feed, breeders to feed, lights, plant taxes to pay, (taxes are a year behind remember, so taxes due are on a regular year), loan payments, etc.

    Of course the banks will scream, stamp their feet, and make threats, but they don't want over engineered, overbuilt, and overpriced single purpose houses without that single purpose in sight on their books. They can do the math too, and they know what 8 weeks will do. Hell, they probably own some corporate debt as well, so they may be leaning on the companies too.

    They make you think you can't live without chickens, but it ain't so. The truth is, THEY can't live without chickens; think about it. I know most contracts give them the right to finish the batch….but is usually just one, and even if it was for a year, would you want to grow chickens a stones throw from someone who hated you and knew the tiniest detail of "your" operation?

    That my friends and fellow slaves is the truth. Our muscles need flexing. John BTW, When I called Pryor and What's his name the Representative, I pointed out that if 4 or 6, or 12 of them were going to make the decisions I didn't see the need for 535 of them on the public teat.

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  3. Comments on the subject are welcome. However, comments with no relevance and which are for the purpose of advertisement will be deleted.

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  4. Craig Watts said:

    Thought about everthing you said..read this 3 or 4 times..and I sincerely appreciate your concern..really can’t put it in words. But I starting thinking and it just kinda hit me that if I do in fact get crucified for telling the truth, well there is so pretty good company in that group.

    All the time, all the money, the time spent away from my family (and as you know I have 3 young children), the STRESS, the aggravation of politicians who can never answer a yes or no question..well to be honest I would do it all over again and will continue though I will be much more cynical and probably much more abrasive to our elected prost..eerr..I mean politicians. The practice of crony capitalism is the worst kind of abuse.

    The whole upside to this is I have worked with some SUPER people. Yourself, Becky, Kay, Mike Weaver, the folks from Alabama, Steve Etka and the groups like the NFU and Food and Water Watch (and I know I have left a bunch out) and there are several on the internet lists who are supportive. Shoot Carole I even met Tom.

    Chin up and rock on…my life will not be defined on how I placed on the ranking sheet.

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