Imagine you've been harmed or suffered damages because of your employer's unfair practices, so you take them to court. Now imagine that on top of proving the legitimacy of your own claim, you also have to prove that your employer's actions harmed competition throughout the entire industry in which you work. Could you afford the lawyers to mount that case? Sounds unfair, right? For thousands of small, family farmers, this is the reality they face when trying to hold the corporations they're contracted with accountable.
Three rules, known as the "Farmer Fair Practice Rules," were put forward at the end of the Obama administration to change this reality and give farmers a fairer playing field when it came to dealing with the Big Meat corporations that already control so much of their livelihoods.
The Trump administration's USDA just withdrew these rules, a move that sides with giant corporations over family farmers and fundamentally contradicts the president's pledge to "always support the farmer."
Farmers and farm advocates understandably feel betrayed. "We are outraged that the USDA is withdrawing rules that would clearly provide basic protections for family farmers and rural communities. Instead, they've chosen to side with Big Meat," says Sally Lee, program director at Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI). "I urge this administration to make good on [President Trump's] promise to protect rural communities, and immediately implement the interim final rule."
Mike Weaver, poultry farmer and President of the Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias, says "American small family farmers are terribly disappointed in the Trump administration for not fulfilling its campaign promise to help the little guy and promote small American family farmers."
The "Farmer Fair Practice Rules" were a reduction of regulations originally put forward in 2010 by the USDA's own Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) which were blocked by lobbyists for years.