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FCC votes to say goodbye to net neutrality

Net neutrality is no more. The FCC ruled 3-2 today to repeal the 2015 rules that required Internet service providers to treat all Internet data as the same, regardless of its kind, source, or destination.

During the highly anticipated hearing on the issue, Mignon L. Clyburn, Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, said the FCC is now “handing the keys to the Internet over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

Clyburn, who along with fellow Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and then-chairman Tom Wheeler, championed the net neutrality rules in 2015 under the Obama Administration, essentially making Internet access a utility service, not a luxury. Clyburn said while consumers may not feel the burden right away, be prepared to pay more and be left with slower speeds. She also said to get ready for the “Cheshire cat form of net neutrality.”

“We will be in a world where regulatory substance fades to black, and all that is left is a broadband provider’s toothy grin and those oh so comforting words: we have every incentive to do the right thing,” Clyburn said. “What they will soon have, is every incentive to do their own thing.”

Voting in favor of the repeal, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said the decision will not “break the Internet” but revert to a highly successful bi-partisan approach prior to 2015 and that the headlines and fears of net neutrality loss are really a “scary bedtime story for the children of telecom geeks.”

In his statement, Commissioner Brendan Carr said the repeal is returning to a lighter regulation that worked for most of the Internet’s existence.

Following his fellow Republican commissioners, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said broadband investment has actually decreased since the 2015 because of net neutrality regulations.

“The Internet wasn’t broken in 2015 … it was the one thing … we can all agree has been a stunning success,” Pai said.

In undoing the regulations, the FCC said the new order would require more transparency from ISPs, which will now be enforced by the FTC.

While broadband companies say they do not intend to block, slow down, or prioritize any web traffic as a result of this repeal, there is a distinct possibility that these ISPs could start charging websites that want to make their content available to their internet subscribers. As the Farmer’s Daughter recently pointed out, ISPs could also have a completely unregulated monopoly on what content we’re able to access on the internet. That would include our small number of rural voices.

The repeal is likely headed to court. Several groups have already said they plan to file lawsuits and there may be a push to Congress to bring back regulations through legislation.

Clyburn said she realizes there are many questions on the mind of Americans right now, including what the repeal of net neutrality will mean for them. To help answer outstanding questions she plans to host a town hall through Twitter next Tuesday at 2pm EST.

“What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you is abandoning you, but what I am pleased to be able to say is the fight to save net neutrality does not end today,” Clyburn said. “This agency does not have, the final word. Thank goodness.”

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Nebraska, Alabama farmers sue USDA over GIPSA withdrawl

Farmers from Alabama and Nebraska are joining the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) in a suit against the 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, brought forth by Democracy Forward, seeks to reinstate USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rules that prohibit major meat and poultry producers who contract with farmers from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices.

In October, 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.”

“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.

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Thirteen states file lawsuit against Massachusetts cage-free law

With Indiana leading the pack, 13 states have filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts saying the new voter-approved cage-free law is not fair to their farmers’ market access to the state.

The law, which goes into effect in 2022, would require all pork, veal, and eggs farmed and sold in Massachusetts come from animals not confined in small cages.

The states’ attorney generals contend that the law violates the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, and would unlawfully force out-of-state farmers to change their production methods if they wanted to sell their meat and eggs in the state.

Other states that have joined the suit are: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Nine years after California changed their animal confinement standards, eggs are still pricey while the state’s production numbers keeps falling, according to a recent Purdue University study. Analysts say the laws’ effects on egg production and prices in California could inform other states considering similar legislation.

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Perdue: Non-scientific barriers too often cut access to ag tech

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was more than supportive of the joint statement on pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs) signed at the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires this week:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture applauds the joint statement on pesticide MRLs issued this week at the WTO ministerial in Buenos Aires. The 17 signatory countries have come together to recognize that farmers worldwide must be able to access the full range of available tools and technologies in order to remain productive and competitive. But too often, that access is hampered by non-scientific regulatory barriers.

“The development of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) that are grounded in science is critical to protecting human and environmental health, facilitating trade and enabling agricultural producers to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population. With this statement, we take a step further in that direction.

“We look forward to continued collaboration with the WTO SPS Committee, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and other partners to establish international residue standards that enable the safe use of pesticides and, at the same time, facilitate trade in food and agricultural products.”

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