Family farming group sues USDA to reinstate fair practice rule

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WASHINGTON – The Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), which advocates for family farming interests, is suing the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) for withdrawing a rule intended to protect family farmers when selling live animals to large agribusiness companies and meat processors.

In October, the USDA announced it would withdraw from the Farmer Fair Practice Rules, which were set up to protect smaller farmers and ranchers. These regulations were largely opposed by the industry including the National Chicken Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The lawsuit brought by OCM intends to reinstate the rule to “prohibit major meat and poultry producers who contract with farmers from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices.”

The Farmer Fair Practice Rule was under the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) of the USDA. GIPSA was eliminated in November as a standalone agency by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and re-established in the Fair Trade Practices program of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). 

The Organization for Competitive Markets also claims that the rules allow farmers to hold agribusinesses accountable for practices “…like retaliation, bad faith cancellation of contracts, or collusion efforts to force farmers out of the market.”  

The lawsuit, which is in the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, is in the form of a petition for review. The Organization for Competitive Markets is being represented on a pro bono basis by Democracy Forward Foundation. 

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