The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Farm Action Fund applaud legislation introduced today to both chambers of Congress that will empower America’s workers and farmers while transforming the power, policy, and financial structures that underpin the U.S. meat and dairy production systems. The Farm System Reform Act, introduced by Senator Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Khanna (D-CA), respectively, was filed with the support of 38 farm and labor groups.
By strengthening the Packers and Stockyards Act, this legislation diminishes corporate control and shifts influence over the food system to the farmers and workers who power it. Among other urgently-needed reforms, the Farm System Reform Act requires greater price transparency and production accountability for meatpackers, and also abolishes abusive corporate practices like undue preference and certain tournament payment systems.
In the place of the current consolidated system, the Act will facilitate the growth of a sustainable, resilient food system that prioritizes fairness, economic opportunity, and safety for American workers, producers, and consumers. Toward that end, the Act reinstates Country of Origin Labeling on meat and extends it to dairy products. By helping producers shift to more sustainable practices and phasing out concentrated animal operations that benefit from unfair business practices, the Act creates opportunities for thousands of current and prospective independent producers and protects workers from unsafe working environments.
“The Farm System Reform Act tackles the root of our food system issues: consolidated corporate power,” said Joe Maxwell, fourth generation Missouri farmer and President of Farm Action Fund. “By shifting federal support away from production models that only benefit corporate agriculture firms, the Farm System Reform Act places power in the hands of farmers and workers. Now is the moment to work together and build a better food system.”
“America’s meatpacking workers have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19 and know firsthand the need to strengthen and improve our country’s food supply chain, said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “For too long, giant corporations have used their power to suppress worker wages, drive up food prices at the grocery store, and block consumer protections. This bill takes action to rein in food industry monopolies and put consumers and workers first with new mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef, pork, and dairy products. As America’s largest union for frontline food workers, UFCW is proud to support this bill from Senator Booker and Representative Khanna, and we urge Congress to quickly pass it and send it to President Biden’s desk for his signature.”
“Large, multinational meatpackers, because of their buying power and size, are putting our food system at risk and harming everyone along the supply chain. We need to fix the broken system – that means giving family farmers and ranchers a fair shot and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing,” said Senator Booker. “We must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system. An important first step is ending our reliance on huge factory farms and investing in a system that focuses on resilient and regenerative production.”
“No longer can Congress sit idle while large, multinational meatpackers threaten everyone else along the supply chain. Farmers are going broke, livestock and poultry face inhumane conditions, meatpacking workers are terribly underpaid and at serious risk of personal injury, and consumers cannot trust that the system will provide food in a crisis,” said Representative Khanna. “Now is the time for bold action; that is why I have introduced the Farm System Reform Act in congress along with Senator Booker.”
The Act follows a sweeping Executive Order issued last week that aims to increase competition across the U.S. economy by directing more than a dozen federal agencies to undertake 72 actions. Included among those actions are several directives benefiting workers and farmers, most notably an investigation into the effect of concentration in the retail food industry, investments in local and regional meat processing capabilities, and directives to protect worker mobility.
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