Small farm groups launch campaign on Packers & Stockyards Act | TheFencePost.com

Small farm groups launch campaign on Packers & Stockyards Act

Steve Etka of the Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform speaks at a briefing Tuesday. Seated, from left, are chicken farmers Carlton Sanders of Mississippi, and Anthony Grigsby of Alabama; cattle rancher Vaughn Meyers, South Dakota; and hog producer Chris Petersen, Iowa.
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

A coalition of small farm groups and their advocates recently launched a “Stand With Farm Families” campaign to try to convince the Agriculture Department to write a strict rule on regulations under the Packers & Stockyards Act to protect independent livestock producers and contract growers from “predatory contracts, rigged markets and retaliation that many claim have driven them into bankruptcy.”

The groups held a news conference at the National Press Club and a briefing for congressional staff on Capitol Hill that was hosted by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. The group also met with Kaptur in her office.

“Corporate bullying, intimidation and a mafia-like mentality has taken control of the chicken industry,” said Anthony Grigsby, an Alabama law-enforcement officer-turned-poultry-grower and his wife, Christy, whose family has grown chickens for three generations.

“In 2019, as a result of retaliation for speaking out, we had to file for bankruptcy,” Grigsby said. “Like many other farmers, we’ve lost everything — our farm, our family home, and the house where we planned to spend our retirement.”

Kaptur and Tester are circulating a letter for members of Congress to sign calling on USDA to write a strict Packers & Stockyards regulation.

After listening to the farmers provide examples of their experiences, Kaptur said in an email, “Here are gross examples of abusive contracting practices, particularly in the poultry sector. Companies greatly disadvantage certain growers at the expense of others. Protection against retaliation, pay transparency, and a right to a fair and just legal system are essential to protect our farmers from this abuse. Each of these concerns must be addressed in the rule making process.”

“The alarming realities of the poultry industry, and similar ones in the hog and beef industries, highlight the imbalance within today’s corporate meat production hierarchy. This must be addressed through USDA’s planned Packers and Stockyards Act rulemaking process.

“I hope the administration will better protect small farmers who help feed America.” ❖