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VA law prevents utility shutoffs in extreme circumstances; MI construction industry responds to a high number of worker suicides; 500,000 still without power or water in the Houston area; KY experts: Children, and babies at higher risk for heat illness.

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The House passes the SAVE Act, but fails to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt of Congress, and a proposed federal budget could doom much-needed public services.

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Enticing remote workers to move is a new business strategy in rural America, Eastern Kentucky preservationists want to save the 20th century home of a trailblazing coal miner, and a rule change could help small meat and poultry growers and consumers.

USDA to Tighten Protections for Contract Farmers

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Friday, October 14, 2022   

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is finalizing rules aimed at increasing protections for contract farmers who grow the nation's poultry and cattle for giant meatpacking corporations.

Supporters of the changes said they will result in fairer pay for farmers and reduce deceptive and discriminatory industry practices, particularly against farmers of color.

Aaron Johnson, manager of the Challenging Corporate Power Program at the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, explained the rules involve updating transparency standards in the poultry industry and leveling the field for contract farmers to publicly advocate for better deals or speak out to the media on unfair practices.

"Most poultry growers, the vast majority of poultry growers, they don't own the chickens that are on their farm," Johnson explained. "Really, what the farmer is providing is the labor to take care of the chickens while they're on the farm."

Johnson pointed out livestock and poultry companies have a hard lobbying grip in Washington, noting a decade ago, the USDA attempted similar reforms but was blocked by Congress in finalizing or implementing them. Opponents of the new rules argued they could harm industry efforts to improve sustainability.

Johnson explains meatpacking corporations currently offer advantages to certain contract farmers over others, and with little oversight.

"The law is going to be updated to protect growers from deceptive contract terms, or from contracts that hide future provisions, like future requirements for upgrades."

He noted four mammoth corporations, JBS Foods, Marfrig, Seaboard and Tyson Foods, control 85% of all meatpacking operations in the U.S.

Disclosure: The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Environmental Justice, Rural/Farming, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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