HOUSE FARM BILL AMENDMENT WOULD GUT HARD-WON FARM PROTECTIONSJuly 11, 2012. WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Conaway-Costa Amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill, which passed the House Agriculture Committee today, guts a 2011 USDA rule that protects thousands of American poultry growers from exploitative contracts, farm groups say. The compromise GIPSA rule, finalized last year, addressed many of the unfair practices that growers say were common in the industry. The finalized rule represented a compromise between the industry and farmer organizations. Even the National Chicken Council, the trade organization representing poultry companies, praised the FY2012 appropriations compromise that led to the final GIPSA regulations. The Conaway-Costa amendment would undo most of those compromise regulations over the opposition of National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, and more than 100 farmer, consumer and community organizations around the country. “America’s poultry farmers deserve basic standards of fairness and access to information in their business dealings with poultry companies,” said Becky Ceartas, contract agriculture reform program director at the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA. “Each of the hundreds of farmers who spoke up for these regulations during the rule-making process did so at risk of retaliation and the loss of their family’s livelihoods,” said Ceartas. “Some of them are now struggling to keep their family farm.” “If the rule is gutted, contract poultry farmers will not have to tools they need to protect their livelihoods when they face unfair treatment and retaliation,” Ceartas said. The GIPSA rule has extended new rights to contract farmers, who often incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and have contracts that may last only a few months:
- Companies can no longer force farmers to spend money on expensive equipment upgrades without proper compensation.
- The federal Packers and Stockyards Act, which has provided some key protections for broiler chicken farmers, now protects pullet growers and breeders as well.
- Farmers have some protection from financial loss when they receive a flock late through no fault of their own.