Answers Sought from Within Agriculture to Control Phosphorous Runoff


Staff Reports



Farmers Union Applauds USDA-GIPSA Farmer Fair Practice Rules

COLUMBUS – Ohio Farmers Union is pleased by the announcement that the long-awaited Farmer Fair Practices Rules, which aim to level the playing field for family livestock producers and poultry growers, have been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

These rules target the most harmful practices hurting farmers and clearly outline common sense protections to restore fairness and reduce the burden for farmers seeking justice under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

“These rules will provide needed transparency into the marketplace for family farmers that have struggled with anti-competitive practices in an increasingly concentrated agricultural marketplace,” said OFU President Joe Logan.

“Family farmers have been at a disadvantage locally or regionally around the country if they believe there is an unfair market practice. Now, hopefully, an independent family farmer won’t have to demonstrate that the entire U.S. market is affected and they can seek a fair remedy to local or regional unfair market practices,” Logan said.

For instance, the four largest processors in the poultry sector in the U.S. control 51% of the broiler market and 57% of the turkey market. In part, due to this concentration, poultry growers often have limited options for processors available in their local communities to contract with. 52% of growers have only one or two processors in their state or region to whom they can provide grower services. That means processors can often wield market power over the growers, treating them unfairly, suppressing how much they are paid, or pitting them against each other.

The Farmer Fair Practices Rules are comprised of an interim final rule and two proposed rules GIPSA today sent to be published in the Federal Register. The interim final rule will affirmatively establish the Department’s long time position that it is not necessary to demonstrate that an unfair practice harms the entire market in order to prove a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Such overly broad interpretations have put family farmers at a disadvantage for decades when pursuing their rights under the Act.

The proposed rule regarding unfair practices would clarify what GIPSA views as practices that clearly violate the Act and would establish criteria to protect the legal rights of farmers. The third proposal would establish criteria that GIPSA would consider in determining whether a live poultry dealer has engaged in a pattern or practice to use a poultry grower ranking system unfairly.

The Farmer Fair Practices Rules include an interim final rule that gives producers protection against unfair or discriminatory contract practices and two proposed rules that provide oversight for pricing and payment practices.

“For too long, family livestock producers and poultry growers have endured a heavily concentrated market with little protection against unfair, anti-competitive practices. We are glad that this important set of rules is finally moving forward,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “While the Farmer Fair Practice Rules do not fix all of the fraudulent practices in the livestock and poultry industries, these rules are certainly an important step in the right direction.”

A provision was included in the 2008 Farm Bill, authorizing USDA to improve GIPSA regulations; however, until recently, lawmakers repeatedly blocked the funding needed for USDA to finalize these protection rules for family farmers.

“Both producers and consumers benefit when the markets are competitive and the practices and process are transparent. We look forward to thoughtfully reviewing the published rules and providing feedback to ensure the final rules will work for family farmers,” Johnson concluded.

Farmers Union to hold Public Meeting in NW Ohio in March

COLUMBUS – Ohio and national conservation and farming leaders will meet in March to try and answer the question: Can farmers in the Maumee Watershed successfully reach the needed 40 percent reduction in phosphorous runoff without federal intervention?

““The US and Canadian governments along with Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario have agreed on a 40% reduction target for phosphorus into Lake Erie,” said Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan.

“While most farmers in the Maumee and other Lake Erie watersheds are engaged in conservation and other best practices, we still have a target to meet,” Logan said.

“If we don’t accomplish this on our own, we’re going to end up with federal intervention – and that’s something we want to avoid.”

The meeting, “Farmers Together – The Solution!,” will be held Tuesday, March 21 at the Ostego High School Auditorium, 18505 Tontogany Creek Rd., Tontogany. The program starts at 7 p.m. It is being sponsored by OFU and St. Rose Peace and Justice.

Logan said the meeting has two purposes. First, to gather area farmers and hear their opinions on two questions: What is causing excessive phosphorous runoff in the Maumee watershed and do they believe voluntary actions on the part of farmers can account for agriculture’s 40 percent reduction goal in that runoff?

Second, Logan said there will be a panel of experts to provide information and answer questions.

Panel members include:

  • Jeffrey Reuter, Ph.D, retired director, Ohio State Stone Laboratory and current special advisor to Ohio Sea Grant Program
  • Logan, farmer and OFU President
  • Verna Harrison, widely recognized conservation leader in the Chesapeake Bay Region and former executive director of the Keith Campbell Foundation
  • Greg LaBarge, Ohio State University Extension 4Rs Expert
  • Meindert VanDenHengel, who runs a large, family-owned hog farm in Van Wert County

The meeting is open to the public and all farmers in the region are encouraged to attend. The sponsors are asking area farmers to register to attend and take a short survey at https://ohfarmersunion.org/farmers-together-the-solution/ .

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Staff Reports

Farmers Union Applauds USDA-GIPSA Farmer Fair Practice Rules

COLUMBUS – Ohio Farmers Union is pleased by the announcement that the long-awaited Farmer Fair Practices Rules, which aim to level the playing field for family livestock producers and poultry growers, have been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).

These rules target the most harmful practices hurting farmers and clearly outline common sense protections to restore fairness and reduce the burden for farmers seeking justice under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

“These rules will provide needed transparency into the marketplace for family farmers that have struggled with anti-competitive practices in an increasingly concentrated agricultural marketplace,” said OFU President Joe Logan.

“Family farmers have been at a disadvantage locally or regionally around the country if they believe there is an unfair market practice. Now, hopefully, an independent family farmer won’t have to demonstrate that the entire U.S. market is affected and they can seek a fair remedy to local or regional unfair market practices,” Logan said.

For instance, the four largest processors in the poultry sector in the U.S. control 51% of the broiler market and 57% of the turkey market. In part, due to this concentration, poultry growers often have limited options for processors available in their local communities to contract with. 52% of growers have only one or two processors in their state or region to whom they can provide grower services. That means processors can often wield market power over the growers, treating them unfairly, suppressing how much they are paid, or pitting them against each other.

The Farmer Fair Practices Rules are comprised of an interim final rule and two proposed rules GIPSA today sent to be published in the Federal Register. The interim final rule will affirmatively establish the Department’s long time position that it is not necessary to demonstrate that an unfair practice harms the entire market in order to prove a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Such overly broad interpretations have put family farmers at a disadvantage for decades when pursuing their rights under the Act.

The proposed rule regarding unfair practices would clarify what GIPSA views as practices that clearly violate the Act and would establish criteria to protect the legal rights of farmers. The third proposal would establish criteria that GIPSA would consider in determining whether a live poultry dealer has engaged in a pattern or practice to use a poultry grower ranking system unfairly.

The Farmer Fair Practices Rules include an interim final rule that gives producers protection against unfair or discriminatory contract practices and two proposed rules that provide oversight for pricing and payment practices.

“For too long, family livestock producers and poultry growers have endured a heavily concentrated market with little protection against unfair, anti-competitive practices. We are glad that this important set of rules is finally moving forward,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “While the Farmer Fair Practice Rules do not fix all of the fraudulent practices in the livestock and poultry industries, these rules are certainly an important step in the right direction.”

A provision was included in the 2008 Farm Bill, authorizing USDA to improve GIPSA regulations; however, until recently, lawmakers repeatedly blocked the funding needed for USDA to finalize these protection rules for family farmers.

“Both producers and consumers benefit when the markets are competitive and the practices and process are transparent. We look forward to thoughtfully reviewing the published rules and providing feedback to ensure the final rules will work for family farmers,” Johnson concluded.