Tell Sec. Perdue to stop delaying fairness rules

The new Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, has a big job ahead in running the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). One important opportunity he has is to bring greater fairness to contract livestock production. This would bolster economic growth in many of the rural communities that brought his boss, President Trump, to office.

Right now, Sec. Perdue is accepting comments on whether an important rule that would bring greater fairness to poultry and livestock production should take effect as originally intended or whether it should be delayed or stopped altogether.

The rule in question provides a basic protection for farmers and ranchers who have been wronged by meat-packing companies. Currently, if a producer suffers certain harms, they have to prove that it was not just their business operation that was affected, but also that there was harm to other producers’ ability to economically compete within the entire industry. This rule would remove that second requirement.

To compare, say you had a house fire. You would file a claim with your insurance company for the value of your lost property. However, if you had to prove to your insurance company that your fire hurt the entire neighborhood, you might never receive payment for lost property.

Farmers and ranchers have waited years for USDA to institute basic fairness protections in the contract poultry and livestock industry. USDA seemed to be making progress last year, when it began accepting comments on three rules. The Center for Rural Affairs submitted comments to the Federal Register supporting all three rules and posted them to our website.

Now, Sec. Perdue has a responsibility to rural poultry and livestock producers: avoid delaying the rules even further and allow them to take effect.

If you support basic fairness for farmers and ranchers, we urge you to submit your own comment to the Federal Register. Ask Sec. Perdue to finalize this rule, or, in the legal terms of the rulemaking process, “allow the Interim Final Rule (IFR) to become effective.”

Sec. Perdue says he supports rural communities. Ask him to prove it.

The deadline is June 12, 2017, to comment.