Sign the Petition to

Rep. Robert Aderholt, Ag Appropriations Subcommittee

Please remove the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act (GIPSA rider) from the House 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The GIPSA rider limits the rulemaking authority of the Secretary of Agriculture under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

The Packers and Stockyards Act is one of the most important federal statutes for the protection of our nation’s livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers. It prohibits meatpackers and poultry companies from using their market power to subject farmers and ranchers to anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent and abusive business practices. Although the Act was originally enacted in 1921, its importance is even greater now because of the growth and vertical integration of meatpacker and poultry companies. This has given large corporations market power that enables contracting practices that are abusive and harmful to family farmers.

Understanding these trends, the 2008 Farm Bill required USDA to write regulations to address some of the commonplace abusive and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry sectors. Based in part on the Farm Bill requirements and on testimony from a series of Agriculture Competition workshops in 2010, USDA issued a package of proposed rules in June of 2010 to address many of these concerns.

The rule received extensive public comments supporting many of these farmer protections. After a protracted rulemaking process, USDA issued final rules in 2011. Those rules included many of the farmer protections, while scaling back or withdrawing some of the more controversial proposals based on public comment. Instead of allowing the rulemaking process to be completed, the meatpackers and poultry companies went to Congress to block the USDA from finishing the rulemaking process.

The appropriations process has been a key legislative venue for those attacks. A provision in the current appropriations bill prohibits USDA from issuing several commonsense rules to protect farmers from unfair practices by the meatpackers and poultry companies. This appropriations rider is now blocking a rule that would prohibit companies from retaliating against farmers for exercising their free speech and association rights, including talking to Members of Congress or USDA officials about the abuses they experience.

The rider also blocks a measure to require companies to provide a farmer, upon request, with the statistical information and data used to calculate the farmer’s pay.

Fortunately, as Members of Congress learn more about the commonsense protections that USDA has proposed, the support for those protections has grown. The 2014 Farm Bill conferees rejected a strong push by the meatpacker and poultry companies to include a provision to limit the authority of the Secretary to enforce many aspects of the Packers and Stockyards Act. This provision, similar but not identical to the GIPSA rider in recent appropriations bills, was firmly rejected by the Farm Bill negotiators and excluded from the final 2014 Farm Bill.

Your Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act should likewise be rejected. There should be no legislative riders to limit the Secretary’s authority under the Packers and Stockyards Act in the 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill.

Sincerely,

Signed,

Organic Consumers Association

This petition closed 9 months ago

How this will help

Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson just became a billionaire. How did he do it? By screwing over farmers.

Now, he wants Congress to make it even easier for Tyson Foods to subject farmers and ...

Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson just became a billionaire. How did he do it? By screwing over farmers.

Now, he wants Congress to make it even easier for Tyson Foods to subject farmers and ranchers to anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent and abusive business practices.

Congress is working on its appropriations bills. That can mean only one thing: Big corporations are cashing in on their campaign contributions. They're looking to their indentured servants in Congress for special favors—just as they did with the now infamous Monsanto Protection Act.

Tyson Foods, the nation's largest factory farm producer of chicken, beef and pork (and about to get bigger) is behind a proposed policy rider to the House Appropriations Committee's 2015 spending bill. The rider would weaken rules, written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), that are supposed to protect contract farmers who raise animals for the four companies that control nearly all the meat eaten in the U.S.

GIPSA is an agency of the USDA that writes the rules intended to promote "fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture."

The GIPSA rider, which we've dubbed the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act, is opposed by 168 farmer, rancher, consumer, labor, farmworker and faith organizations.

John Tyson made his money by squeezing farmers, giving them an increasingly smaller share of each consumer dollar spent on Tyson products. Farmers' incomes have dropped, even as Tyson has watched his profit margins rise.

A full quarter of chicken farmers experience losses every year. Tyson doesn't even pay them enough to meet their operating costs.

Pork and beef farmers aren't doing well, either. Hog farmers have seen their share of the consumer dollar halved, from 50 cents in 1980 to 24.5 cents in 2009. For cattle farmers, their share has fallen from 62 cents to 43 cents.

How does Tyson get away with this? Through vertical integration and consolidation, he's removed competition. He can run his monopolistic enterprise like a dictator. Tyson owns and controls everything in his supply chain, from the animals to the feed to the slaughterhouse.

Not only can Tyson decide how much to pay farmers, he can force them to farm the way he wants. Or suffer the consequences.

Tyson farmers in Oklahoma learned this the hard way. They refused to make costly modifications to their chicken houses that Tyson wanted even though the modifications weren't required under their contracts. Tyson retaliated by giving the farmers unhealthy chicks and substandard feed. The farmers took Tyson to court and won a $10 million jury award for violations of the Oklahoma Consumers Protection Act.

After all that, the Oklahoma Supreme Court took the award away, saying that law didn't cover the farmers because they weren't consumers.

The USDA has tried to address the abuse of farmers by corporate dictators through the GIPSA rules—the rules Tyson and his meat empire down't want to follow.

Under GIPSA rules, Tyson would have to:

•    Give poultry farmers adequate notice of plans to suspend delivery of chicks;

•    Meet stricter criteria to require farmers to make additional capital investments in their poultry or hog farm;

•    Provide a reasonable period of time for a farmer to remedy a breach of contract that could lead to termination of their contract; and

•    Let farmers take disputes to court if the arbitration process outlined in the contract doesn't adequately protect farmers' rights.

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