US - US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced the release of three Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) regulations that are very important to the nation’s contract poultry growers.
"These rules are a critical step in providing some basic fair business standards to govern how poultry companies treat the contract farmers that produce the chicken," said Steve Etka, Policy Director for the Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform.
The new rules would level the playing field for farmers by proposing protections against the most egregious retaliatory practices harming chicken growers. The Farmer Fair Practices Rules are comprised of an interim final rule and two proposed rules GIPSA today sent to be published in the Federal Register.
The interim final rule will affirmatively establish the US Agriculture Department's (USDA's) long-term position that it is not necessary to demonstrate that an unfair practice harms the entire market in order to prove a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Such overly broad interpretations have put family farmers at a disadvantage for decades when pursuing their rights under the Act, USDA said.
The proposed rule regarding unfair practices would clarify what GIPSA views as practices that clearly violate the Act and would establish criteria to protect the legal rights of farmers. The third proposal would establish criteria that GIPSA would consider in determining whether a live poultry dealer has engaged in a pattern or practice to use a poultry grower ranking system unfairly.
"For years, American farmers have been calling for protections against the most damaging unfair and deceptive practices confronting family farms across the country," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Poultry growers in particular are vulnerable to market risks and concentration in the processor market. All too often, processors and packers wield the power, and farmers carry the risk. Today, USDA is taking a big step toward providing the protections that farmers deserve and need."
"Contract poultry farmers are small businesses who invest in excess of $1 million to build chicken houses on their own farms, going deeply into debt to secure a poultry grow-out contact with a large poultry processing company. Unfortunately, the terms of the contract and payment system are very opaque and often deceptive," said Etka. "We are very thankful for Secretary Vilsack’s diligence in moving forward with these key protections."