Lawsuit Follows USDA’s Decision to Side with Major Meat Producers, Making It Harder for Farmers to Seek Relief from Abusive Big Ag Practices
Washington, D.C.— On behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and independent farmers from Alabama and Nebraska, Democracy Forward challenged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for illegal rollback of critical protections intended to shield family farmers and ranchers from predatory and retaliatory practices by big agribusiness corporations. The new suit seeks to reinstate rules that prohibit major meat and poultry producers who contract with farmers from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices.
In October, USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) withdrew the “Farmer Fair Practices Rule,” which would have allowed farmers to hold agribusinesses accountable for practices like retaliation, bad faith cancellation of contracts, or collusion efforts to force farmers out of the market. Despite the long history of such abuses in the poultry and livestock industry, USDA halted the rule, making it effectively impossible for farmers to bring unfair practices claims.
“The Trump Administration has eliminated rules designed to level the playing field for family farms and has instead given large multinational corporations the upper hand,” said Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM). “In doing so, Secretary of Agriculture Perdue and the Administration have thrown America’s farmers to the wolves, telling them that their family businesses don’t matter. We called on the President to reverse Secretary Perdue’s actions and he has failed to right this wrong, so we are seeking justice through the courts.”
The Farmer Fair Practices Rule was the result of a multi-year process, based on thousands of comments from the public, including independent farmers and ranchers, to help ensure fairness in the production of our country’s food.
“President Trump’s unlawful rollback of a years-long negotiated rule aimed at protecting local farmers and ranchers is indefensible,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “We know from decades of evidence that massive agribusiness companies don’t hesitate to use their power to abuse these farmers and the Farmer Fair Practices Rule was a crucial step to restoring fairness in the market. It should be restored either by USDA, or by the court.”
The Organization for Competitive Markets is being represented on a pro bono basis by Democracy Forward Foundation.
The suit, which is in the form of a petition for review, was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Read the full petition here.
Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) is a membership-based research and advocacy organization working for open and competitive markets and fair trade in America’s food and agricultural sectors.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.