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Nebraska, Alabama farmers sue USDA over GIPSA withdrawl

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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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