Family Farmers File Brief Against Department of Agriculture for Unlawful Withdrawal of Farmer Fair Practices Rules

Friday, March 30, 2018

Family Farmers File Brief Against Department of Agriculture for Unlawful Withdrawal of Farmer Fair Practices Rules

Administration Unlawfully Withdrew Rules that Would Have Helped Level the Playing Field Between Farmers and Agribusiness

New Brief is Latest Development in Suit Against the Trump Administration for Siding with Big Ag over Small Farmers

Washington, D.C. — On behalf of the Organization for Competitive Markets and individual farmers, Democracy Forward filed a new brief in its ongoing suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture for unlawfully withdrawing the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, also known as the GIPSA Rules. The Rules would have helped independent and farmers hold big agribusiness accountable for breaking the law. In the filing, farmers from Alabama, Nebraska, and Kansas detailed the ways in which market concentration has enabled large agricultural companies to retaliate against them for standing up for their rights, how the Rules would have helped them seek legal redress, and why the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of the Rules hurts them.

The Rules would have strengthened protections for farmers under the landmark Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. For example:

  • The Rules would have made it easier for Alabama farmers like Jonathan and Connie Buttram to challenge the large poultry companies that have retaliated against the Buttrams’ advocacy on behalf of growers by cancelling contracts with their farms;
  • The Rules would have helped Nebraska cattle producer Jim Dinklage and Kansas cattle producer Mike Callicrate seek justice in court when meatpackers blackballed them for protesting their unfair treatment; and
  • The Rules would have begun to redress the disparities in bargaining power between small farmers and big agribusiness–disparities that make the work of Organization for Competitive Markets so urgent.

But notwithstanding President Trump’s repeated promises to American farmers, in October 2017 his Administration withdrew the Farmer Fair Practices Rules. In doing so, the Trump Administration defied Congress’s mandate, in the 2008 Farm Bill, to publish regulations clarifying what conduct violates the Packers and Stockyards Act. In addition, the Administration violated cardinal principles of administrative law by failing to explain why it has decided that it’s no longer good policy to help farmers seek recourse when they are subjected to retaliatory and discriminatory treatment.

“It is very unfortunate that our tax dollars are being spent in court to defend Secretary Perdue’s illegal withdrawal of these marketplace safeguards. We and more than 80 other farm organizations have called on President Trump to do the right thing and reinstate the Farmer Fair Practices Rules by executive order, and he should listen to rural America,” declared Joe Maxwell, Executive Director of Organization for Competitive Markets.

“The Trump Administration is breaking its promise to help small farmers, siding with large corporations instead,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy. “The Administration’s decision to roll back the Farmer Fair Practices Rules isn’t just a broken promise–it’s also unlawful.”

The Organization for Competitive Markets, Jonathan and Connie Buttram, and Jim Dinklage are being represented pro bono by Democracy Forward Foundation. The case is before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.


Organization for Competitive Markets is a membership-based research and advocacy organization working for open and competitive markets and fair trade in America’s food and agricultural sectors.

Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.

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