Some farm and rural advocacy groups are pushing the U.S. Senate to fund new rules governing the market place in livestock and poultry.
This is a story that has been going on for more than two years. In 2009, Obama administration officials told farmers, ranchers and poultry raisers that they were eager to enforce anti-trust laws in the agriculture business. The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration then proposed rules that would help to level the playing field between packing companies and farmers and ranchers.
Those rules have never been made final and the House has cut off funding to implement the rules, should GIPSA (which is housed in the Department of Agriculture) ever makes them final. Now the battle has turned to the Senate, which could affirm or reverse the House decision.
The Pew Environment Group has sent a letter to every Senator arguing in favor of the rules. The group explains:
Over the past 50 years, animal agriculture has changed significantly. The industry has consolidated and now most farmers and ranchers are struggling to compete in a marketplace controlled by large corporations. Contracting reform, including outlining competitive injury, unfair practices, undue and unreasonable preferences, and improved transparency, is needed to help provide protection to small farmers and producers against unfair practices. Currently, the market power of family farmers and ranchers is virtually non-existent in the broiler industry, and the swine and cattle markets will follow suit if something is not done.
Today, virtually all chicken production in the U.S. is controlled by a handful of national processing companies that own the feed mills, slaughterhouses, shipping operations, and even the birds themselves. Growers raise birds under contracts with the processors, but hold the mortgages on large growing sheds and maintain all liability for managing the tons of waste produced. In many parts of the country where there may be only one processing company for chickens, the growers have little choice to enter into these restrictive contracts. The market control of those large companies allows the use of oppressive contracts which may ultimately result in growers receiving less for the chickens than what they cost to raise.
Of course, even if the Senate decides to fund the GIPSA rules that doesn’t mean the Obama administration will act. The GIPSA rules remain in limbo.
• The White House is coming up with a rescue plan for the U.S. Postal Service. And none too soon. The USPS is unable to pay billions in retirement payments due at the end of the month and it is losing $10 billion a year.
No details yet on the rescue plan, according to the Washington Post. The USPS has asked permission to cut service to five days a week, close thousands of post offices and lay off 120,000 workers.
• A new study finds that industrial fishing in the deep sea should be halted because the practice is making areas of the seas a “water desert.” We are fishing out areas much faster than it take the fish to reproduce.
• The Carsey Institute has a new survey of residents in two coal mining counties in southeastern Kentucky.
The biggest problem in Letcher and Harlan counties is drugs. The area is the center of an ongoing epidemic of prescription drug addiction. Close behind in concern is employment.
Poverty is an increasing issue among residents, as is affordable housing. You can get the full report here.
Interestingly, people in the community see an increased willingness to “work together,” but there is a big drop-off from 2007 to 2011 in “local government effectiveness.”
An increasing number of residents want local resources (gas and coal) to be used to spur the local economy.
• The New York Times writes about Llano, Texas, a town that is running out of water.