Shameful Kowtowing to the Meat Industry: 147 Congressmen Diss Family Farmers
Last Wednesday, 147 Members of Congress proved once again that the meat industry can buy public policy. The trade associations for big meat, which are major campaign contributors, have been pitching a hissy fit that they won’t be able to squeeze every penny out of livestock producers. They wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking him to conduct “a more thorough economic analysis” of the proposed fair farm rules (GIPSA) that would give livestock producers a fighting chance when they contract or sell to the consolidated meat industry. This action by the Members is nothing more than yet another obstruction to implementing a rule first proposed in the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act because of the abusive practices of the meat industry that have continued and worsened through the decades. This rule would eliminate “undue” preference in livestock marketing to the biggest producers.
In other words, these 147 Congressmen and women are protecting the interests of big factory farms, preventing rules that would make farming fair and help reverse the stranglehold Big Ag has on the food system. The letter, led by Representative Jim Costa (D-Calif.), is exactly the kind of sabotage that kept consumers from seeing a country-of-origin label on some of their meat, fruits and vegetables for eight years after the 2002 farm bill.
What’s the GIPSA rule, and what does this mean for farmers? The rule would make it easier for small livestock farmers to get their products to market by giving them a fair price that would let them stay in business. The rule stops preferential contracts granted to factory farms, allows competitive bidding on livestock, and prohibits retaliation against poultry growers who speak out about abuses.
The 2008 Farm Bill required the USDA to finally enforce the law, yet the power of the handful of meatpackers that slaughter almost all of the meat in the U.S. has successfully held implementation of the rule at bay. Now, 147 Congressmen are lobbying the USDA on behalf of this highly concentrated industry that wants to force small-and medium-sized farmers to get out of farming and leave the business to the biggest players. Rep. Costa’s letter even says that Congress voted against the proposed rule during the 2008 farm bill, but this is a flagrant untruth. No part of Congress—committee or floor, House or Senate—ever voted against any of the proposed livestock reforms.
What can you do? Find out if your representative has signed the letter, and if they have, let them know that by doing so, they are enabling the growth of factory farms. Check out our Factory Farm Map, which shows how agricultural policy, at the behest of the biggest players in the meat industry, has led to consolidation of livestock production—meaning that there are fewer and fewer farms with more and more animals that cause a host of environmental, public health, economic, food safety and animal welfare problems.
We have a national day of action planned next month where you will be able to tell President Obama that we need fair farm rules like GIPSA—NOT more factory farms. Sign up here to receive our e-alerts for updates.