“The good lord created a shark. And a shark has two things that it does, swims and eats. A corporation has two things that it’s supposed to do – make […]
“The good lord created a shark. And a shark has two things that it does, swims and eats. A corporation has two things that it’s supposed to do – make money, and keep their stockholders happy. I know enough about a shark that I’m not going to get in my swimming pool with one, and I know enough about these corporations that I’m not going to do business with them.”
Dudley Butler is the man who used to run the federal agency tasked with regulating the major meat producing industries, including poultry. As the previous head of GIPSA (Grain Inspectors Packers and Stockyards Act), he has seen the realities of the chicken business. And he has also seen the obstacles that come along with any attempt to enforce regulations or improve protections for farmers through legislation.
We had the chance to interview Butler in Mississippi, and we learned about the power of the poultry lobby. For example, Butler explained the recent and unfortunate gutting of the GIPSA administration by Congress. Basically, when the 2014 Farm Bill process ended, the final bill included new protections for farmers to be enforced by GIPSA. (For more info on the 2014 Farm Bill visit RAFI’s website: http://rafiusa.org/blog/2014-farm-bill-gipsa/) Two in particular were upsetting to companies:
1) A clause making it illegal for companies to retaliate against farmers
2) A requirement that companies to give at least 90 days notice to farmers before cutting off their contracts
Butler explained how the poultry industry was able to exert incredible power over Congress to get around these new rules. In the appropriations process, in which Congress designates a budget for legislative goals, they gutted GIPSA leaving almost no resources for the agency to work with.
Dudley pointed out that with no resources, there are no lawyers, researchers, and other trained staff who are knowledgeable or have the political will to pursue farmers’ cases. By organizing this “legislation by the purse strings,” the powerful chicken lobby has drained the capacities of the one agency farmers had to turn to for backup.