Letters urge Congress to reject policy riders on COOL and farmer protections
WASHINGTON – Last week, farm, rural, consumer, labor and environmental groups from across the United States delivered two separate letters to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees urging them to reject any efforts in their upcoming 2015 Appropriations Bill to insert policy riders that would harm family farmers, ranchers and consumers.
The first letter, signed by 179 groups, urged the committee to reject any attempts to undermine Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) law and regulations. The letter noted: “Consumers want to know more, not less, about the origins of their food, and using an appropriations rider to deny them that knowledge is unacceptable.”
The letter further encourages committee members to speak up in support of COOL during Appropriations Committee hearings and markups. “Farmers and ranchers are proud of what they produce and should be allowed to promote their products. Consumers deserve clear, direct and informative labels. Providing more accurate labels with more information is a win-win situation for producers and consumers alike,” the organizations wrote.
The second letter, signed by 168 groups, urges the committees to reject any policy riders that would limit the Secretary of Agriculture’s authority to finalize key protections for farmers under the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 (P&S Act). The P&S Act is intended to protect livestock and poultry farmers and ranchers against anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent and abusive business practices by meatpackers and poultry companies.
For several appropriations cycles, Congress has blocked the Secretary from finalizing regulations to implement protections for farmers by inserting policy riders at the behest of the meatpackers and poultry companies. The groups’ letter warns that the special interests seeking another rider are engaged in contracting practices that are abusive and harmful to family farmers.
The rider blocks several commonsense and basic safeguards for farmers. The letter notes that the rider would block “a rule that would prohibit companies from retaliating against farmers for exercising their free speech and association rights, including talking to Members of Congress or USDA officials about the abuses they experience” and “a measure to require companies to provide a farmer with the statistical information and data used to calculate the farmer’s pay.”
In January, Congress firmly rejected the meatpackers’ and poultry companies’ aggressive efforts to roll back protections for farmers and weaken COOL in the 2014 Farm Bill. The letter urges the Appropriations Committees to uphold Congress’ position expressed in the 2014 Farm Bill by rejecting any riders to limit the Secretary’s authority under the P&S Act or to undermine COOL.