Contract Agriculture Reform

Production contracts aren’t necessarily the problem. The real problem: The way the industry and the corporate monopsony powers—the few who control the majority of the market—use these contracts to primarily benefit their bottom line and shift production risks onto farmers.

At RAFI-USA, we believe contract farming can be useful for farmers to reduce their risk and plan cash-flow. RAFI -USA supports the use of transparent and fairly negotiated contracts in many agricultural transactions, including with employees or buyers.

However, many livestock production contracts, like those designed for broiler growers, can be misleading and complex. Many farmers who sign these contracts find themselves in a bad financial situation a few years down the road. At RAFI-USA, we have worked with contract poultry growers for more than 25 years and have heard many stories of long-term debt, unpredictable and highly variable pay, small or negative revenues and bankruptcy.

Because we stand by and value our farmers, we seek to protect them with just and equitable contracts. RAFI-USA works closely with contract livestock producers across the Southeast to understand the good and bad experiences of contract farming. Drawing primarily from farmers’ experience with poultry production contracts, we provide analysis of the long-term social, legal and economic impacts of the contract agriculture system and possible viable alternatives. In collaboration with other national farm and community organizations, RAFI-USA takes the data and first-hand accounts, and fights for reforms to protect the family farmer who turns to contract production.

If you are considering signing a poultry or livestock production contract, or if you currently have one, the most important step to protecting your farm is to know the risks. Review our resources and guides for contract farmers.

Have questions or need help? Contact us.

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Stand with Farm Families Campaign

In May 2019, we shared that the USDA released a notice of proposed rulemaking. This indicated that in Summer 2019 the agency will begin writing rules critical to protecting contract poultry and livestock farmers from illegal and unfair corporate business practices including retaliation. The new rule will seek to clarify Section 202(b) of the Packers and Stockyard’s Act, which was passed into law in 1921 in response to rampant abuses in the meatpacking industry. The rule release will be followed by a 60-day public comment period. Click here to read our specific rule guidance about what must be included in order to be effective in protecting farmers.

In June 2019, we launched a #StandwithFarmFamilies campaign including a petition to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and campaign webpage: www.standwithfarmfamilies.org.

In July, traveled with with a group of farmers to DC to meet with their legislators about this issue. The group in DC included farmers from 7 states – South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. During the trip, farmers made a total of 33 Hill visits, spoke to USDA representatives, met with staffers from the Senate and House Ag. Committees, held a Congressional briefing, and live streamed a farmer press conference. Right now, the petition has more than 84,000 signatures. Senator Tester (D-MT) and Congresswoman Kaptur (D-OH) circulated a Dear Colleague letter which was sent to Under Secretary Ibach on July 30th, 2019. Learn more: rafiusa.org/blog/standwithfarmfamilies and rafiusa.org/blog/DCTripRecap

Stand with Farm Families is a project of RAFI-USA, Organization for Competitive Markets, and Government Accountability Project.

Farmers deserve freedom of speech. Farmers deserve to be treated with dignity, free from company intimidation or retaliation. Farmers deserve the right to organize. These are rights that have been denied to many livestock and poultry farmers for far too long. Please join our campaign by signing this petition and #StandWithFarmFamilies

Farmer Stories… 

After raising poultry for 12 years, Anthony Grigsby and his wife, Christy, are facing bankruptcy as a result of company retaliation.

For almost 30 years, Carlton Sanders endured racial discrimination on top of the predatory practices of the company he worked for. When he spoke up, the company retaliated, forcing him to lose his livelihood, his health, and his family.

For the past 20 years, Greg has raised chickens under contract with the same company. In 2019, they terminated his contract without warning. Greg and his wife have now filed for bankruptcy and put their chicken houses up for sale.


Poultry Growers on the John Oliver: This Week Tonight Show

In May 2015, HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver featured a segment on chicken farmers and the poultry industry. They also featured footage from RAFI-USA’s documentary, Under Contract, on the show. RAFI-USA has a long history working with poultry farmers for reform in contract agriculture, and we’ve put together some research to give you a quick overview of the data behind the issues highlighted in the show. Read our viewers guide to the show to get all the details.

Poultry Industry Overview

Still have questions about how the poultry industry works? Check out this infographic.