Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Action - Protect Contract Farmers' Rights

Take Action to Protect Contract Farmers’ Rights in the 2007 Farm Bill

During the 2002 Farm Bill debate it was very difficult to get legislators to address the problems that contract farmers face. However, we have an easy opportunity now to influence the USDA’s recommendations for the new farm bill by submitting comments on line by December 30, 2005.

1. Go to: and click on the Farm Bill Forums button and the farm bill comments page

Enter in your comments about how you think the 2007 Farm Bill should be shaped. We encourage you to go to question number two to ask the USDA to ensure fair and competitive markets for America’s farmers and ranchers. Below are some sample comments that you can use.

Email Becky Ceartas at RAFI-USA ( or call at 919-542-1396, ext. 209, when you have submitted comments so that we can keep track of how many of been submitted.

Forward this email on to your members, friends, and colleagues to help spread the word!

Sample Comments:
In order for U.S. agriculture to remain able to supply and respond to changing global and domestic markets, farm policy should be designed to enhance competitive domestic markets. During the 2002 Farm Bill debates, public testimony provided clear and compelling evidence of the need for free market competition and fairness for America’s farmers and ranchers. Since that time these concerns have become even more urgent and prominent in the public eye. The role of government should be to facilitate properly operating markets and to bring balance to the economic relationships among farmers/ranchers, consumers and food companies.

Therefore, I urge the United States Department of Agriculture to include the following provisions in its recommendations for the 2007 Farm Bill:

1. Producer Protection Act: This proposal is designed to set minimum standards for contract fairness in agriculture. It addresses the worst abuses contained in processor-drafted boilerplate contracts. It includes: (1) Clear disclosure of producer risks; (2) Prohibition on confidentiality clauses; (3) Prohibition on binding mandatory arbitration in contracts of adhesion; (4) Recapture of capital investment (so that contracts that require a significant capital investment by the producer cannot be capriciously canceled without compensation); and (5) A ban on unfair trade practices including "tournament" or "ranking system" payment.

2. Closing Poultry Loopholes in the Packers & Stockyards (P&S) Act: USDA does not have the authority to bring enforcement actions against poultry dealers. The P&S Act omits this authority even as USDA can enforce the law against packers and livestock dealers. We seek to clarify that USDA's authority over poultry applies not only to broiler operations, but also to growers raising pullets or breeder hens. These loopholes should be closed.

3. Bargaining Rights for Contract Farmers: Loopholes should be closed in the Agricultural Fair Practices Act of 1967 (AFPA), and processors should be required to bargain in good faith with producer organizations. The AFPA was enacted to ensure that livestock and poultry producers could join associations and market their products collectively without fear of retribution by processors. These goals have not been attained due to loopholes in that Act. Retaliation by processors is commonplace in some sectors. This legislation should be passed to promote bargaining rights and prevent processor retaliation.

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action


  • At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    don't forget, Farm Bill comments need to be posted on USDA's website by December 30, 2005 - that is the official deadline for comments as part of the farm bill listening sessions round that they did throughout the year - no doubt there will be other opportunities to give comments to USDA. But this round of comments ends December 30th


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