Hurricane Matthew has flooded several chicken farms in eastern North Carolina and left many out of power. When disaster strikes like this, farmers face may find themselves facing loss or damage to their home, to their land and essential farm equipment, and a long road to recovery and rebuilding. On top of that, as the flood waters receded chicken and livestock farmers will face another dilemma – they may have lost entire flocks, which can be hundreds of thousands of birds. In these catastrophic loss situations, farmers’ contracts make it clear that even though the companies technically own the birds while they are alive, the farmers themselves have to take on the burden and risk of disposing of the dead bird carcasses in a timely and safe way.
On Monday Oct. 10, officials issued a Major Disaster Declaration for several counties in eastern North Carolina as a result of devastating flooding and damage from Hurricane Matthew. Farmers are facing serious crises – from flooded barns to lost crops. If your home and farm were affected by the hurricane, there are resources and federal programs to cover some of your costs. This guide will get you started. Sometimes it can be hard to navigate the different programs available. If you have questions call our offices and press “1” for the farmer hotline: 919-542-1396.
Ninety-seven percent of the chicken we eat is produced by a farmer under contract with a big chicken company. In 2015, people consumed 112,000,000 metric tons of chicken globally. That’s an unfathomable quantity. So here’s one way to visualize it: That amounts the weight of two-thirds of all the cars on the road today in the United States—in chickens.
Poultry farmers are a major contributor to the statistics on rising debt levels in American farming. The contracts they have with Big Chicken companies are also the premiere model for production contract agriculture, which is spreading across agricultural industries. As other agricultural industries move in this direction, they are systematically exposing more farmers to higher stakes in debt related risks.
The current combination of rising farm debt with decreasing farm income means that farmers are facing a financial squeeze, and that should raise serious red flags about the health and sustainability of our agricultural system.
For the sixth time, members of Congress in the Ag Appropriations Committee have blocked implementation of regulations to protect farmers through a backdoor measure. But this time, their infamous “GIPSA rider” barely passed in this House committee, as several long-time supporters voted against it. The staff at RAFI, our partners, and thousands of chicken and livestock farmers across the country will work together to get it out of the federal budget for 2017 before it becomes law in October of this year.
In a recent House committee meeting, Representative Harris (R-MD) justified a measure that would de-fund USDA’s protection of poultry farmers by citing a few strikingly odd facts: “chicken growers vote with what they decide to do” he said, “there’s a waiting list of 2000.” He also claimed that 94% of growers re-sign their contracts every year, and that thus 94% of growers must be happy. Interesting logic!