A USDA decision is giving significant power to the multibillion-dollar meat industry, potentially crushing the smaller turkey farmers.
Ike Horst raises 22,000 turkeys a year on his farm in the rolling hills of south-central Pennsylvania, selling them to a processing company that was providing him with enough of a nest egg that he hoped he could sell the farm and retire.
But a Trump administration decision to block proposed agriculture regulations may blow up those plans, preserving the multibillion-dollar meat industry’s power over the smaller turkey farmers whose birds will grace the tables in millions of American homes this Thanksgiving.
Horst is one of the independent businessmen caught up in the Trump administration’s governmentwide deregulation frenzy.
Obama-era rules that had yet to take effect would have given smaller farmers more power to set the terms of their deals with massive meat companies, empowering the growers to sue and better define abusive practices by processors and distributors under federal law. Trump’s Agriculture Department killed two of the proposed rules, one of which would have taken effect in October.
Major agribusinesses like Cargill and Butterball fought the rules, saying they would lead to endless litigation between farmers and global food companies.
Trump’s deregulatory strike — lauded by big business — has consequences, even for the mom-and-pop turkey farmers who raise free-range, antibiotic-free turkeys that have seen increasing demand as Americans become more socially conscious about the production of their foods.
Horst is afraid a planned sale of his farm will fall through because Plainville Farms, a major organic food producer and the primary customer for his turkeys, is requiring the buyer to install upgrades including fans, tunnel ventilation and a stationary generator if it wants to continue supplying to the company.
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