Organic Consumers Association

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

The factory farm industry is so full of bad actors it’s tough to say who’s the worst. But Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) surely belongs at or near the top of the list.

Besides Tyson’s well-documented animal abuse record, its callous disregard for the safety of its employees, and its role as one of this country’s worst polluters, Tyson is also actively lobbying to prevent Congress from passing legislation that would provide basic protections for the farmers who raise the animals, under contract, destined for Tyson’s processing plants.

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

When Congress returns to work after Labor Day, lawmakers will be rushing to meet the September 30 deadline for yearly spending bills, including the agriculture appropriations bill. As big corporations look to cash in on their campaign contributions, Tyson lobbyists are in full swing in support of a provision to further weaken protections for farmers who raise livestock, including poultry, for companies like Tyson.

The provision Tyson is so keen to pass is known as the "GIPSA rider. It is intended to block the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from enacting new farmer protection rules that were first proposed in 2011, but have since been continually blocked by industry. The new rules were created under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Now, as Congress works to pass a final joint ag appropriations bill, Tyson and other industry lobbyists are once again trying to ram through the GIPSA rider.

We call this provision the “Tyson Foods Anti-Farmer Act” for two reasons.

One, because that’s exactly what the GIPSA rider is—legislation that “would severely limit the USDA’s ability to protect farmers’ basic rights — like the right to free speech or freedom of association—in their dealings with large meatpacking and poultry companies,” says the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

And two, because Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods, the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, is clearly behind the rider. Why? So Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson can protect his billions in profits, made by cheating the farmers who literally feather Tyson’s nest.

How does Tyson cheat farmers?

John Tyson’s executive compensation includes $859,100 worth of flights on the company’s private jets each year. Tyson made his piles of money by making sure farmers get an increasingly smaller share of each consumer dollar spent on Tyson products.

As a result, 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. Of growers whose sole source of income is chicken farming, 71 percent of are living below the poverty line.

How does Tyson get away with this? Through vertical integration and consolidation, Tyson has 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.

To learn how this has hurt family farmers, watch “Under Contract,” a series of short videos that tell stories of contract farmers like Karen and Mitchell Crutchfield who Tyson drove to bankruptcy and foreclosure.

John Oliver also does a brilliant job of explaining how companies like Tyson cheat chicken farmers.

How would the GIPSA rider hurt farmers and help Tyson?

In 2011, the USDA finalized new GIPSA rules to address the problems Tyson and the other big meat companies have caused for family farmers like the Crutchfields.

But those new rule were never enacted—because John Tyson has used his friends in Congress to block them. And no wonder. Under the 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.

It's time to enact GIPSA’s rules to protect farmers.

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