Big Agriculture is putting family farms out of business.
It has to stop.
This summer, the USDA will release a rule aimed at defending livestock and poultry farmers’ basic rights like freedom of speech.
We’re asking you to stand by farmers and let the USDA know you want strong safeguards to give farmers a fighting chance.
What farmers need NOW
Freedom to speak the truth.
The rule must ensure that farmers are not financially punished or otherwise disadvantaged in the market for making public statements, especially to government officials or the media.
Freedom to join together in producer associations.
Poultry companies should not be allowed to discriminate against growers for joining together with other growers to advocate on their own behalf.
Protection from corporations enforcing a self-serving system.
Farmers' pay should be based solely on things within their control. Differences in pay based on inputs provided by the corporation should be considered undue preference. This includes industry "common practices" developed by the corporations to serve the corporations.
Clear criteria with detailed, specific rules that adequately cover different types of livestock, and are suitable for the future.
One set of criteria will not be adequate to protect farmers from undue prejudice across all livestock sectors. Therefore, specific criteria must be established for all sectors of livestock, such as poultry, hog, and cattle. Criteria must be established for analyzing various interactions between companies and farmers to ensure the future of the industry is not dictated by powerful corporations.
No other type of industry requires a person to make this scale of investment without protections.
The contracts farmers sign are portrayed as steady income, a partnership between farmer and company with both sharing equally in the risk and reward of raising livestock for the corporation. But that’s not how it happens.
Corporations own all inputs and dictate almost all practices for livestock and facilities, leaving farmers with little to no control over their operations.
Farmers are required to construct outrageously expensive and specialized facilities, most of them costing $1 million or more. They take out loans to build, often tying up their farm and family home as collateral. In exchange, the corporations offer them “take-it-or-leave-it” style contracts with no guarantees past the first delivery of livestock, no way of predicting pay and massive additional investment requirements.
"You feel for the people but at the same time you also worry, am I going to be next?
- Greg Carey, contract poultry farmer in Georgia
Conditions for farmers are often worst for those who speak up or speak out.
Independent livestock and poultry producers are being squeezed out of business by corporate concentration. Contracting with agribusinesses if often the only option for farmers to stay in business, but that comes at a high cost.
It's long since time for an enforceable regulation to address corporate retaliation and exploitation. Companies are known to provide poor quality chicks or feed, delay delivery timelines, allow or force operators to take on too much debt for mandatory upgrades, or to break contracts for arbitrary or discriminatory reasons.
"Americans believe in taking care of Americans. It doesn't matter if the guy is Black, White, or green."
- Carlton Sanders, former contract poultry farmer in Mississippi
The only Black farmer out of 173 contracting for Koch Foods in Mississippi. When he spoke out about discrimination at the company, they retaliated against him. The bank foreclosed on his farm and he filed for bankruptcy. He lost his family and his health due to the stress. Carlton was included in this ProPublica expose in June 2019.
The farmer’s share of the retail food dollar is down from 50% to 14%.
Where is that money going?
Right into the pockets of large corporations who use their size and strength to exploit the family farms of rural America.
These huge companies have consolidated their market power so there’s no competition and livestock prices paid to independent family farmers are at rock bottom. Farmers are often promised that contracting to raise livestock for the corporation will save them from bankruptcy, but all it does is put them deeper in the hole.
It's time for policy reform and systemic change.
"Once I became a questioner, I started getting targeted. I've lost everything. We're losing the house as well as the farm. We depend on our legislature to use common sense in making sure that we have protections enforced and put out to the American farmer."
- Anthony Grigsby, former contract poultry farmer in Alabama
Tell the USDA you stand with family farmers and urge them to craft strong safeguards.
It only takes a minute to show your support.