Reject changes to the Packers and Stockyard Act

May 19, 2014

The letter below was sent to:

The Honorable Barbara Mikulski, Chairwoman
The Honorable Richard Shelby, Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Senate

The Honorable Harold Rogers, Chairman
The Honorable Nita Lowey, Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives

Cc: Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations
Cc: Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations

The undersigned 168 farmer, rancher, consumer, labor, farmworker and faith organizations are writing to urge your opposition to any appropriations policy riders to limit the rulemaking authority of the Secretary of Agriculture under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

The Packers and Stockyards Act is one of the most important federal statutes for our nation’s livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers. It prohibits meatpackers and poultry companies from using their market power to subject farmers and ranchers to anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent and abusive business practices. Although the Act was originally enacted in 1921, its importance is even greater now because of the growth and vertical integration of meatpacker and poultry companies. This has given them considerable market power and enabled contracting practices that are abusive and harmful to family farmers.

Understanding these trends, the 2008 Farm Bill required USDA to write regulations to address some of the commonplace abusive and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry sectors. Based in part on the Farm Bill requirements and on testimony from a series of Agriculture Competition workshops in 2010, USDA issued a package of proposed rules in June of 2010 to address many of these concerns.

The rule received extensive public comments supporting many of these farmer protections and, after a protracted rulemaking process, USDA issued final rules in 2011. Those rules included many of the farmer protections while scaling back or withdrawing some of the more controversial proposals based on public comment. Instead of allowing the rulemaking process to be completed, the meatpackers and poultry companies went to Congress to block the USDA from finishing the rulemaking process.

The appropriations process has been a key legislative venue for those attacks. A provision in the current appropriations bill prohibits USDA from issuing several commonsense rules to protect farmers from unfair practices by the meatpackers and poultry companies. This appropriations rider is now blocking a rule that would prohibit companies from retaliating against farmers for exercising their free speech and association rights, including talking to Members of Congress or USDA officials about the abuses they experience. The rider also blocks a measure to require companies to provide a farmer, upon request, with the statistical information and data used to calculate the farmer’s pay.

Fortunately, as Members of Congress learn more about the commonsense protections that USDA has proposed, the support for those protections has grown. The 2014 Farm Bill conferees rejected a strong push by the meatpacker and poultry companies to include a provision to limit the authority of the Secretary to enforce many aspects of the Packers and Stockyards Act. This provision, similar but not identical to the GIPSA rider in recent appropriations bills, was firmly rejected by the Farm Bill negotiators and excluded from the final 2014 Farm Bill.

We are urging the Appropriations Committees to do the same, by rejecting any legislative riders to limit the Secretary’s authority under the Packers and Stockyards Act.


Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association

Alabama State Association of Cooperatives

Alaska Farmers Union

Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) (MT)

American Agriculture Movement

American Federation of Government Employees (AFLCIO), Local 3354, USDA-St. Louis

American Grassfed Association

American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association

Arkansas Farmers Union

Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake County (OH) Farmers’ Union

Berks (PA) Gas Truth

BioRegional Strategies

Buckeye Quality Beef Association (OH)

California Dairy Campaign

California Farmers Union

Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform

Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment

Caney Fork Headwaters Association (TN)

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (NC)

Social Services Office-Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri/Diocese of Jefferson City

National Catholic Rural Life Conference

Cattle Producers of Louisiana

Cattle Producers of Washington

Center for Earth Spirituality and Rural Ministry (MN)

Center for Rural Affairs

The Center for Social Inclusion

Central Co-op (WA)

Church Women United of New York State

Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana

Citizens for Sanity.Com, Inc. (FL)

The CJD Foundation

Cleanwater Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin

Colorado Independent CattleGrowers Association

Community Alliance for Global Justice (WA)

Community Farm Alliance (KY)

Community Food and Justice Coalition (CA)

Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias

The Cornucopia Institute

Cornucopia Network NJ/TN Chapter

Crawford Stewardship Project (WI)

Cultivating Community (ME)

Cumberland Countians for Ecojustice (TN)

Dakota Resource Council

Dakota Rural Action of SD

East New York Farms!/United Community Centers

Ecological Farming Association (CA)

Endangered Habitats League (CA)

Equal Exchange

Fair World Project (OR)

Family Farm Defenders (WI)

Farm Aid

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Farmworker Association of Florida

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund

Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc.

Food & Water Watch

Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food Democracy Now!

GardenShare (NY)

Grassroots International

Hmong American Partnership

Hmong National Development, Inc.

Hunger Action Los Angeles

Illinois Farmers Union

Illinois Stewardship Alliance

Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (I-BAND)

Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska

Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming

Indian Nations Conservation Alliance

Indiana Farmers Union

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska

International Texas Longhorn Association

Iowa Farmers Union

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (MD)

Kansas Cattlemen’s Association

Kansas Farmers Union

Kellyn Foundation (PA)

Label GMOs San Francisco

Land Stewardship Project (MN)

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)

Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership, Inc.

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (WI)

Michigan Farmers Union

Midwest Environmental Advocates (WI)

Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)

Minnesota Farmers Union

Mississippi Assoc. of Cooperatives

Missouri Farmers Union

Missouri National Farmers Organization

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

Missouri’s Best Beef Cooperative

Montana Farmers Union

Murray County (OK) Independent Cattlemen’s Association

National Family Farm Coalition

National Farmers Organization

National Farmers Union

National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association

National Organic Coalition

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

National Young Farmers Coalition

Nature Abounds (PA)

Nebraska Farmers Union

Nebraska State Grange

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society

Nebraska Wildlife Federation

Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics (NE WIFE)

Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of

United Church of Christ

Nevada Live Stock Association

New England Farmers Union (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT)

New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

N. Carolina Assoc. of Black Lawyers, Land Loss

Prevention Project

North Dakota Farmers Union

Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. — NH

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. — NY

Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. — VT

Northeast Organic Farming Association, Interstate Council (NOFA-IC)

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)

Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers

Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (MA)

Northwest Farm Bill Action Group

Oglala Sioux Livestock and Land Owners Association (SD)

Ohio Environmental Stewardship Alliance

Ohio Farmers Union

Oregon Rural Action

Organic Consumers Association

Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM)

Organization for Competitive Markets

PCC Natural Markets (WA)

Peach Bottom Concerned Citizens Group (PBCCG) (PA)

Pennsylvania Farmers Union

Pennypack Farm and Education Center (PA)

Pesticide Action Network North America

Poultry Partners (AR)

Powder River Basin Resource Council (WY)

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

Rio Grande Community Farm

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Roots of Change

Rural Advancement Foundation International — USA (RAFI-USA)

Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural

Rural Vermont

The Second Chance Foundation

Slow Food USA

Small Planet Institute

Social and Economical Development Project

South Dakota Farmers Union

South Dakota Livestock Auction Markets Association

South Dakota Sheep Growers Association

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association

Sustain LA (CA)

Tidal Creek Cooperative (Food Market) (NC)

Tilth Producers of Washington

Tooling, Manufacturing and Technologies Assoc.

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

Virginia Association for Biological Farming

Washington Farmers Union

Waterkeeper Alliacne

Western Colorado Congress

Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC)

Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group


Wisconsin Farmers Union

Women, Food and Agriculture Network

Related reading

Support for Country-of-Origin Labeling

Letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to reject any effort to weaken, suspend or rescind mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) in the upcoming legislation to provide funding for the federal government for the remainder or part of Fiscal Year 2015.

Amend Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule

Comments on the USDA’s National Organic Program draft rule for organic animal welfare standards

Restricting antibiotics in livestock

Joined a coalition supporting legislation (HR 1549 and S. 619) to restrict antibiotics as a feed-additive for livestock