Poultry farmers upset over protections stripped in new bill - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Poultry farmers upset over protections stripped in new bill

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At issue is a policy rider of the bill which overrides the farm bill and denies poultry and livestock farmers protection given by the Packers and Stockyards Act. At issue is a policy rider of the bill which overrides the farm bill and denies poultry and livestock farmers protection given by the Packers and Stockyards Act.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

An agriculture bill in the U.S. House of Representatives has now passed, and has upset many area poultry growers who will soon lose some of their protections against the companies they sell to.

Jonathan Buttram heads the Poultry Growers Association in Alabama, and said stripping those protections is a clear danger to the family farmer.

Buttram had been a poultry farmer for more than three decades and was deeply concerned by what he's seeing coming out of Washington. At issue is a policy rider of the bill which overrides the farm bill and denies poultry and livestock farmers protection given by the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Jonathan Buttram received a letter that his chicken houses had to be completely cleaned out before he would receive any more chickens. Buttram said it's causing major problems with him because one of the protections is a 90 day notice, one that he did not get.

Under the current law, Buttram said poultry companies are required to give 90 days notice before requiring such action to completely clean out a chicken house, so he's filed a complaint with the government, a right he stands to lose if the bill passes.

Buttram said the 90 days allows for another batch of birds to be completed and keep the income coming into the farm. He said it also gives a farmer time to make arrangements to get the job done. Without such protections, Buttram said it will be detrimental to the areas poultry farmers.

Poultry farmers said one of the classic ways integrators retaliate against them is if they report abuses and concerns to their congressmen. Some believe the law would restrict that conversation.

Officials with Congressman Aderholt's office said some farmer protections are being maintained, but admit some are being done away with. Aderholt said while no side is completely satisfied with everything in the bill, the end result would help ensure that the poultry economy continues to grow and produce jobs.

However, opponents said an amendment from representative Mary Kaptur failed which would have protected farmers from retaliatory actions if they spoke to public officials about abusive practices in the industry.

"Us farmers, we need to be able to speak to our congressmen, and have the right to speak out," said Buttram. "Well, this does away with our right to speak out, the right for freedom of speech that our veterans has fought for all these years."

Officials with Representative Aderholt's office denied restrictions to speech adding the Packers and Stockyard Act specifically prohibits any retaliation.

More than 165 organizations comprised of farmers, ranchers, consumer, labor, and farm worker organizations sent letters opposing the bill. The bill now goes before a full vote of the house. That's expected to take place sometime in June.

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