The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released a long-promised rule that has the potential to bring greater fairness to livestock and poultry production.
As part of the release, public comments are now being accepted on the rule and are due by March 13.
See below for our comment template and instructions on how to comment.
Midwest rural communities are familiar with how poultry and livestock production has changed in the last several decades. To achieve efficiencies of scale, meat packing companies now operate by contracting with poultry and livestock growers. Under these contracts, farmers are required to use the feed and animals provided by the packing company.
Under this arrangement, farmers hold all the risk. If the animals provided get sick, or do not grow rapidly in response to the feed, farmers are paid less at the end of the contract. Adding to their risk, these farmers often carry a heavy loan debt from the construction of their hog or poultry barns.
Making the situation even more precarious for farmers, the meat-packing companies can and do play favorites. They may deliver smaller or weaker animals or sub-standard feed to farmers or offer them lower prices than their neighbor when the animals are market-ready.
Oftentimes, farmers are afraid to speak up about these unfair practices in fear of losing their contracts.
Long time coming
The new rule comes after decades of pressure from farmers, ranchers, and rural allies for the USDA to bring greater fairness for livestock and poultry farmers. In response to this pressure, USDA has released, but then pulled back, multiple rules over the last decade.
This new rule and comment period are an important opportunity to ask USDA to bring greater fairness to contract poultry and livestock production. Anyone can submit a comment before the deadline of March 13, and we urge you to do so.