Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Let USDA know that monopoly is a kid’s game -- farmers deserve a fair shake!

HildeI think that monopoly is only fun in the form of a board game; and, even then, only really if you’re winning. Otherwise it’s a pretty long and slow demise, ending with no cash, no property, and just a pewter wheelbarrow to show for all your hard work.

In the real world, too much power in the hands of too few is no fun at all. Especially if you are on the losing side of the power equation – which is where America’s family livestock producers have been relegated for decades now.

Fortunately, for the first time in a long while (almost a century, believe it or not), the US Department of Agriculture is doing something about it. Although they’ve had a law on the books (the Packers and Stockyards Act) since the early 1920s to protect livestock producers against unfair, preferential and deceptive treatment by giant meatpackers and processors, they are just now getting around to defining some critical language that will actually give the law some teeth and practical importance when it comes to cracking down on corporate concentration and abuse. This is a mammoth step forward for the livelihoods of America’s livestock producers. It also is a pretty big deal for those of us who like the idea of local meat, rolling pastures, thriving local economies and free-roaming animals and ranchers.

It may not surprise you to learn that the giant meatpackers and processors in the drivers seat who find themselves doing just fine (thank you very much) controlling the market as they please, are not very happy about all this recent attention on fairness and transparency. Lucky for them, they have heaps of power and money on their side, which has translated into some pretty intense lobbying and spreading of misinformation to keep business operating as usual.

Which is exactly why we need each and every one of you (yes YOU!) to take a few minutes and let the USDA know that you support the proposed livestock rule released by USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) in June 2010. Tell them that you want good quality, affordable food; that local and pasture raised meat is important to you; and that our country needs independent livestock producers on the land, producing good food on family farms, not factory farms, and keeping our communities and economies strong. Tell them family farmers deserve a fair shake, plain and simple.

This is the biggest opportunity in decades to make a difference in the lives of America's livestock producers and to ensure a future of good food. Every comment counts. Make yours now!

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