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2015-01-01

Congress takes family farmers & ranchers for a ride

By John Crabtree Center for Rural Affairs

What does Congress have against family farmers and ranchers? The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed recently included the full version of the so-called GIPSA rider passed earlier by the House of Representatives. A rider is a legislative provision attached to a larger spending bill.
There are not enough ways to describe how bad this hidden policy package truly is. It limits USDA's ability to protect farmers' and ranchers' basic rights, such as their freedom of speech and freedom of association. The Packers and Stockyards Act, passed in 1921, was written to protect farmers and ranchers from discriminatory, deceptive and abusive practices when they sell livestock and poultry to meatpacking corporations.
Congress abandoned those principles when they passed the Fiscal Year 2015 federal spending bill. They abandoned USDA's effort to provide smaller volume livestock producers a more competitive livestock market and greater fairness for farmers and ranchers. The 2008 Farm Bill required Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to write regulation - under the Packers and Stockyards Act - to prohibit undue and discriminatory preferences given to large, industrial livestock operations and to provide basic protections to farmers and ranchers who do business with meatpacking corporations. Vilsack proposed the best and most comprehensive livestock market reforms since the passage of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Unfortunately, Congress has repeatedly undercut his efforts. Family farmers and ranchers, need and deserve access to competitive livestock markets that reward them fairly for their work. That's something Congress must figure out, soon.