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Source: Farm Aid news release

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) published a series of rules supporting poultry growers farming under contract with major poultry companies. The trio of rules, called the "Farmer Fair Practice Rules," address the long-criticized "tournament" payment system for poultry growers, as well as promote fair business practices and competitive environments to market livestock and poultry.

The new regulations are as follows:

A rule to clarify that farmers are not required to prove that harms they have suffered as a result of poultry company violations have also caused harm to competition throughout the entire poultry sector.

A rule to define the term "undue or unreasonable preference or advantage" and address practices like retaliatory actions against free association and free speech that many poultry growers have experienced for speaking out against company practices.

A rule to address the "poultry grower ranking" payment system, also called the "tournament" system, used to force growers to compete against each other based largely on factors that are controlled by the company and not growers.

"The people who grow our food need a fair shake and the chance to make a decent living," said Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid. "The majority of chicken that Americans consume is produced in an industry where the power of a few giant corporations leaves farmers trapped in a rigged marketplace. We have worked to tell their stories and are pleased to see this important step in their fight for justice come to fruition." Mugar applauded Secretary Vilsack and those who worked tirelessly at USDA "to ensure these critical protections for farmers saw the light of day."

Last week, Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) debuted its documentary, called "Under Contract," on Capitol Hill with support from Farm Aid, National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Union, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and others. "Under Contract" tells the stories of poultry growers who have struggled with the current system, and shows why the way that the U.S. does agribusiness must change in order to protect not only farmers, but also the food supply, from industry abuses.

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