Guest Post: Poultry Growers Need the GIPSA Rule 2


By Mickey Box, Poultry grower, Arkansas

Last month, the Ukrainian company that bought two North Carolina Townsend plants shut them down, laying off hundreds of workers and terminating the contracts of more than 150 contract poultry growers.  As a poultry grower, I know how devastating a lost contract would be. Poultry growers are often hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and if a company cuts you off, there’s no way to pay it. For the cut-off growers, the plant closing is going to ruin lives and destroy the livelihoods of hardworking family farmers.

The USDA has proposed a rule that might have protected these farmers. The rule, known as the GIPSA rule, would give growers the right to recoup 80% of what they invest in their poultry operation, and it would protect them from being forced to make expensive upgrades. If the rule had been in place, cutting off the contracts of 200 of my fellow farmers might not have been such a cost-effective option for the company. The cut-off growers would certainly be in a better financial situation than they are now.

Unfortunately, the rule has been slow in coming, and Congress has put pressure on the USDA to slow it down even further. The House of Representatives even passed language that would kill the rule altogether.

Two years ago, Pilgrim’s Pride made cuts similar to the ones we saw this month, leaving hundreds of farmers saddled with debt. Many of those growers had federally guaranteed loans. When the company walked away and farmers were forced to default on their payments, taxpayers were left holding the bill. The farmers were left facing bankruptcy, a high risk of suicide and stress-related health problems, and the loss of their farms. Last year, many of those farmers asked the USDA to pass the GIPSA rule quickly, so that no other farmer would be put in their situation. Now, for 150 more families, the rule is too late.

We needed this rule a long time ago, and each day we wait is another day that farmers are at risk for losing their farms when the next plant closing comes down the line. I hope Senators Pryor and Boozman will vote against any amendment that will kill or delay the GIPSA rule.   We need them to do what’s right and support the hundreds of family farmers in Arkansas and around the nation who grow chicken under contract.


2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Poultry Growers Need the GIPSA Rule

  • Craig Watts

    I would like to take all 147 of the Congressman who signed the letter telling Vilsack to scrap the rule and start over to Siler City, NC and let them tell these 150+ farmers why it is in their best interests for the rule not to proceed. Wonder if their own representative Larry Kissel (D) has made an appearance at any of the meetings they have been having???

    It is one thing for a business to fail on its own, but this is the most unusual industry that exists. You don’t really get a part in that decision. I have been doing this and treading water (barely) for 20 years. The intital 10 year note has turned into a perpetual loan. I feel like Moses……I will never be able to step in the promised land.

  • Carole Morison

    The House of Representatives bowed to the poultry industry with sugar plums dancing in their heads of campaign contributions. They are out of touch with the real world and within their DC circle contract poultry growers don’t count. So what if some farmers lose their farms!

    It’s like talking to a brick wall when visiting our illustrious politicians in their world. They have no clue about where their chicken comes from and obviously don’t care to know.

    The federally guaranteed loans (tax payer dollars) only put farmers deeper in debt and the lenders, most often Farm Credit, happily lend money for industry demands of expensive upgrades because they are guaranteed their payback. This scheme should be illegal. The only loser in the game is the contract poultry grower. Technically one could say that tax payers are funding company demands of expensive upgrades.

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