FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19, 2016

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106
ajerome@nfudc.org

WASHINGTON (April 19, 2016) – After several years of proactively limiting farmers’ basic rights and protections, Congress appeared poised to finally let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implement a provision included in the 2008 Farm Bill to provide needed marketplace protections to contract farmers. But, the House Appropriations Committee today passed an amendment designed to further stall the long-awaited Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule.

“The idea that the House Appropriations Committee would ignore the progress we’ve made towards finalizing this important set of rules is completely appalling. Today’s action is a direct assault on family farmers and ranchers in this country,” said National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson. “NFU will work hard to ensure that this partisan amendment never becomes law and that USDA is allowed to do its job.”

The GIPSA rule would address abusive contracting and marketing practices in the highly concentrated livestock and poultry sectors – such as prohibiting retaliation for farmers who speak to USDA or with members of Congress and requiring transparency in how pay is calculated. An annual appropriations rider had repeatedly blocked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing the final rule, until late last year when lawmakers omitted the rider from the congressional appropriations omnibus bill.

The amendment passed today in the House Appropriations Committee would bar USDA from writing rules that address unjust discriminatory practices, such as retaliation against farmers who speak out about unfair practices. The roadblock erected today was “disheartening,” given the recent progress and commitment from lawmakers and the administration towards implementation of the regulation, Johnson explained.

At the NFU Annual Convention in March, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged to make the GIPSA rule a priority during the remainder of his tenure. Shortly thereafter, eight congressional champions for agriculture wrote a letter to Vilsack, voicing their support for GIPSA.

“Family farmers and ranchers are competing in an increasingly more concentrated marketplace while trying to keep their bottom lines out of the red in a depressed farm sector.  These producers do not need more cards stacked against them,” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate that too many lawmakers chose big business over family farming and rural America today.”

Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) continued their support for finalizing of GIPSA rules during today’s House Appropriations markup hearing.

“NFU appreciates the strong advocacy for farmers’ basic protections championed today by Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Chellie Pingree,” Johnson concluded. “We will strongly urge the full body of the House to oppose this rider so we can continue forward on the path to implementation.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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