Organic Consumers Association

Tell Congress: Stop the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act!

Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson just became a billionaire. How did he do it? By screwing over farmers.

Now, he wants Congress to make it even easier for Tyson Foods to subject farmers and ranchers to anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent and abusive business practices.

Take Action: Tell Congress to stop the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act!

Congress is working on its appropriations bills. That can mean only one thing: Big corporations are cashing in on their campaign contributions. They’re looking to their indentured servants in Congress for special favors—just as they did with the now infamous Monsanto Protection Act.

Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest factory farm producer of chicken, beef and pork (and about to get bigger) is behind a proposed policy rider to the House Appropriations Committee’s 2015 spending bill. The rider would weaken rules, written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), that are supposed to protect contract farmers who raise animals for the four companies that control nearly all the meat eaten in the U.S.

GIPSA is an agency of the USDA that writes the rules intended to promote “fair and competitive trading practices for the overall benefit of consumers and American agriculture.”

The GIPSA rider, which we’ve dubbed the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act, is opposed by 168 farmer, rancher, consumer, labor, farmworker and faith organizations.

Take Action: Tell Congress to stop the Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act!

Background

John Tyson made his money by squeezing farmers, giving them an increasingly smaller share of each consumer dollar spent on Tyson products. Farmers’ incomes have dropped, even as Tyson has watched his profit margins rise.

A full quarter of chicken farmers experience losses every year. Tyson doesn’t even pay them enough to meet their operating costs.

Pork and beef farmers aren’t doing well, either. Hog farmers have seen their share of the consumer dollar halved, from 50 cents in 1980 to 24.5 cents in 2009. For cattle farmers, their share has fallen from 62 cents to 43 cents.

How does Tyson get away with this? Through vertical integration and consolidation, he’s removed competition. He can run his monopolistic enterprise like a dictator. Tyson owns and controls everything in his supply chain, from the animals to the feed to the slaughterhouse.

Not only can Tyson decide how much to pay farmers, he can force them to farm the way he wants. Or suffer the consequences.

Tyson farmers in Oklahoma learned this the hard way. They refused to make costly modifications to their chicken houses that Tyson wanted even though the modifications weren’t required under their contracts. Tyson retaliated by giving the farmers unhealthy chicks and substandard feed. The farmers took Tyson to court and won a $10 million jury award for violations of the Oklahoma Consumers Protection Act.

After all that, the Oklahoma Supreme Court took the award away, saying that law didn’t cover the farmers because they weren’t consumers.

To learn more about how Tyson screws over farmers, watch these videos from Simon & Schuster, Yahoo! Finance, and Bloomberg TV, that feature Christopher Leonard, author of The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business.

The USDA has tried to address the abuse of farmers by corporate dictators through the GIPSA rules—the rules Tyson and his meat empire down’t want to follow.

Under GIPSA rules, Tyson would have to:

•    Give poultry farmers adequate notice of plans to suspend delivery of chicks;
•    Meet stricter criteria to require farmers to make additional capital investments in their poultry or hog farm;
•    Provide a reasonable period of time for a farmer to remedy a breach of contract that could lead to termination of their contract; and
•    Let farmers take disputes to court if the arbitration process outlined in the contract doesn’t adequately protect farmers’ rights.