Friday, May 21, 2010

Food Democracy Now

Tell the DOJ to stand up for farmers today. End the fear and intimidation in rural America!

Dear Kendall,

Today family farmers face some of their toughest times since the Great Depression. In the last 48 hours we drove more than 900 miles across the country to be here in Normal, Alabama because we believe it's important to stand up for farmers in the face of unfair contracts and corporate abuse.

Right now, the Department of Justice and USDA are holding their second listening session on anti-competition issues in the food industry. Today Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder are listening to farmers talk about the abuses in the poultry industry that are forcing family farmers deeply into debt and out of business.

Unfortunately, because of how the poultry industry works, there’s a lot that they won’t hear. Despite widespread reports of price manipulation and corporate intimidation, the Department of Justice has had a hard time finding any poultry farmers willing to testify publicly about these abuses.

In the past few days we’ve heard directly from chicken growers who were warned by the company that they contract with that if they even show up at this hearing they will face retaliation, possibly losing their contracts. There’s no place in America for these types of threats to our nation’s farmers.

Click here to stand up for family farmers across the country who bear the brunt of agribusiness’s corporate abuses in the Heartland. Tell Attorney General Holder and Secretary Vilsack it’s time to put an end to this type of corruption.

Farmers are afraid to come forward because they know if they do they face the possibility of losing their jobs, their houses and their farms. This happens all the time in rural America. Last year America got a taste of what the chicken industry is all about when poultry grower Carole Morison, who starred in Food Inc., spoke out against the industry. After 23 years her company cut her contract! And the only way she could hold onto her farm was because both she and her husband had two off-farm jobs.

For decades, poultry growers have complained about the unfair contracts, price manipulation and loss of income due to corporate intimidation. Without competition, family farmers have no choice but to submit to company demands, however unreasonable.

Farmers no longer own the chickens, but raise them on contract, regularly going into debt more than $1 million to build highly specialized buildings, with only one or two companies to sell to under contract in their area. As a result, farmers have no competitive markets to sell to and companies like Tyson and Perdue dictate the terms of the contract, including costly modifications to their structures. Oftentimes these are demands that farmers are simply unable to sustain.

In these “take it or leave it” contracts, farmers live in constant fear of having their contracts canceled if they fail to comply with the demands of companies such as Tyson.

Now, as the Department of Justice is finally ready to investigate this deplorable situation, the Big Chicken companies have put the word out that they will retaliate if any grower testifies. On the way down to Alabama we spoke with one grower who actually said that farmers are afraid to even show up at the public hearing, lest they become “made an example of”.

This type of fear and intimidation has no place in America.

Here at Food Democracy Now! we believe that farmers should not have to live in fear of having their contracts pulled out from under them, forced into continuous debt and should be paid a fair wage for their labor.

Tell the Administration to stand up for family farmers like Carol Morison as they bravely share their stories and fight for justice. It’s time to Fight Big Food!

Thank you for participating in food democracy!

Dave, Lisa and The Food Democracy Now Team

We need to keep the pressure on! Please donate to Food Democracy Now today – whether it’s $5 or $50. We rely on folks like you to keep us going. Thank you!

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