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Current NFU News
Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of Injunction Against Country of Origin Labeling PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 29, 2014

Contact: David Thews, 202-554-1600
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WASHINGTON (July 29, 2014) – National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement after receiving news of the District Court of Appeals’ en banc decision on a challenge to enforcement of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) by the multinational meatpackers and our foreign competitors.  By a 9-2 majority, the panel upheld an earlier 3-judge panel decision to deny an appeal to halt the enforcement of the popular labeling law, passed in 2008.

 “NFU, and our broad coalition of consumer and producer organizations, have achieved yet another victory in our long battle to uphold the enforcement of the COOL regulation as modified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA).   This marks the third time that COOL has won in court. There is no need for this case to proceed. 

“The Court ruled that the government may require factual, uncontroversial information to be included on a label. American consumers want to know basic information about where their meat comes from, and livestock producers across this great nation are very proud of what they produce and happy to let consumers know where their meat comes from.  USDA’s new COOL rules will significantly improve the information available to consumers by reducing confusion about the origins of meat products.  It will also provide U.S. livestock producers the opportunity to differentiate their products, which they are proud to claim as theirs.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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More Than 80 Farm, Consumer, Rural and Faith-Based Organizations Call on Justice Department to Extend Review of Proposed Tyson-Hillshire Merger PDF Print E-mail

For Immediate Release
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Contact: David Thews, 202-554-1600
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WASHINGTON (July 24, 2014) — Today, a coalition of 82 farm, ranch, consumer, rural and faith-based groups sent a letter demanding that the U.S. Department of Justice extend its review of the proposed Tyson Foods (Tyson) takeover of Hillshire Brands, Co. (Hillshire). The proposed merger would join the largest U.S. meat and poultry company, Tyson, with the 11th largest meat company, Hillshire, and would substantially undermine competition in the pork processing and hog purchasing sectors, disadvantaging farmers and consumers and undermining rural communities.

“Fewer buyers of hogs and sows result in a less competitive market for family farmers,” said Roger Johnson,president of National Farmers Union. “The rapid consolidation of market power in the hands of just a few pork processors resulted in the loss of more than 90 percent of all hog farms since 1980. Tyson’s takeover of Hillshire certainly warrants further investigation by the Department of Justice and should be stopped. It’s time for the Justice Department to enforce our anti-trust laws.”

Tyson won a protracted and expensive bidding war to initiate the hostile takeover of Hillshire. The Justice Department reviews hostile takeovers on an accelerated 14-day timeline, rather than the typical 30-days to consider a more thorough merger review. The letter notes that the complexity of the proposed merger warrants a much more comprehensive review because of Tyson’s significant hog and sow purchasing and marketing and because the proposed merger would enable Tyson to undermine Hillshire’s sausage and lunchmeat rivals by disrupting their access to pork supplies. Tyson’s substantial and largely opaque role in private label processed pork production is another aspect of this deal that warrants further scrutiny from regulators.

“Consumers have witnessed an onslaught of food company mergers over the past few years that reduced consumer choices and contributed to higher grocery store prices,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. “The Justice Department should not rubber stamp a $9 billion hostile takeover by America’s biggest meat company that is not in the best interests of consumers or farmers.”

The proposed merger strengthens Tyson’s grip on all livestock producers. It would give the company broader control of the entire hog production sector by combining Tyson’s breeding operations, its hog and sow marketing business, and its slaughter capacity with Hillshire’s sow and boar packing plants, which would give it greater leverage over hog farmers to push down the prices they receive for their market hogs and cull sows and boars. The proposed merger also would improve Tyson’s ability to pit all livestock producers against one another by manipulating the supply of chicken to undermine the consumer demand for beef or pork and thus lower the prices cattle and hog producers receive.

“Studies confirm that beef and pork are protein substitutes and when dominant meatpackers like Tyson have control over each, they can readily pit one commodity against another to maximize their shareholder profits at the expense of U.S. livestock producers,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

The food and agribusiness sectors are already excessively consolidated, but there has been an accelerated wave of agribusiness and food mergers over the past 18 months that threatens to accelerate the tight monopolistic control over the entire food and farm sector. The letter concludes, “The proposed merger would significantly impair competition throughout the hog and processed pork marketplace, harming farmers, consumers, rival processors and rural communities. The Department of Justice must not grant an early termination of the merger review.”

#          #          #

The coalition letter to the U.S. Department of Justice is availablehere:http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/coalition_letter_to_DoJ_on_tyson-hillshire_merger.pdf

For more information, contact:

Darcey Rakestraw, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2467

David Thews, National Farmers Union, (202) 554-1600

Laurel Masterson, R-CALF USA (406) 252-2516

 
NFU, Illinois Farmers Union Announce Strong Support for Chicago Ordinance Offering E15 at Self- Service Pumps PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2014

Contact: David Thews, 202-554-1600
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WASHINGTON (July 28, 2014) – National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson and Illinois Farmers Union President Norbert Brauer today underscored their organization’s strong support for the proposed Chicago City Ordinance offering E-15 fuel to area self-service gas station customers. 

By blending 15 percent ethanol with 85 percent gasoline, Chicago consumers, the environment, Illinois farmers and workers employed by state ethanol producers would all benefit, they explained.

“This proposal offers consumers a choice at the pump, which will lead to numerous health and environmental benefits,” Johnson and Brauer wrote in a letter to the resolution’s co-sponsors, Alderman Edward M. Burke, chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, and Alderman Anthony Beale.

They pointed out that offering consumers E15 at the pump would improve the quality of the city’s air and boost the local economy. 

“Importantly, increasing the amount of ethanol in fuel will reduce pollution and carcinogens in the air,” the letter noted, adding, “the ethanol industry is very important to the Illinois economy and Illinois is the third-largest producer of ethanol in the nation.”

Illinois’ ethanol industry supports 73,156 jobs and creates $17.5 billion in economic activity annually.  

The resolution was introduced after a survey of local gas prices across the nation revealed that the Chicago area had the highest average prices, at $4.15 a gallon.  The resolution is currently under consideration by the city’s Finance Committee.

The letter in its entirety can be found here

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.
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NFU Asks EPA for Clarity on Key Points Under WOTUS Rule PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 17, 2014

Contact: David Thews, 202-554-1600
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WASHINGTON (July 17, 2014) – In a letter sent today to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson asked for more information about which bodies of water would be deemed jurisdictional under the proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

The letter was a follow-up to a conference call held this week between the Administrator and members of the NFU board of directors, which consists of Farmers Union state and regional presidents.

“During our call, a number of questions were raised by NFU board members,” Johnson wrote. “The board asked for clarity surrounding some of the definitions in the proposed rule. The general sense was that the proposed rule has created less clarity, not more as intended.”

Johnson acknowledged that it is not always possible for EPA to make definitive determinations for all bodies of water at this point, but stressed that more information must be made available to rural America to alleviate confusion and resentment. Johnson also mentioned that EPA’s reputation was damaged in farm country with the proposed reductions in the Renewable Fuel Standard, which likely led to a more negative reaction to the WOTUS proposed rule.

In the letter, NFU asked EPA to provide a map with estimates of which bodies of water will be considered jurisdictional to EPA’s regulation. Questions were also posed about wetlands in the Prairie Pothole region, coordination with state agencies and the treatment of unconnected bodies of water that are seasonal.

During the conference call, NFU thanked the EPA for listening to the concerns of farmers and ranchers and for its efforts to educate and clear up misinformation about WOTUS. NFU is currently preparing formal comments about the proposed rule and hopes to have answers from EPA soon to ensure its comments are as informed as possible.

A full version of today’s letter is attached.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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Equal Access to Broadcast Television Key to Rural America PDF Print E-mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 17, 2014

Contact: David Thews, 202-554-1600
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NFU Backs Senate’s ‘Clean Reauthorization’ of STELA Bill

WASHINGTON (July 17, 2014) – Doug Sombke, president of South Dakota Farmers Union, visited Capitol Hill last week to urge lawmakers to act on pending legislation that will ensure rural Americans maintain access to their local broadcast television stations.

“Broadcast television is a key tool for rural Americans to obtain local news, weather and market data and emergency broadcast alerts,” said Sombke, who also chairs the National Farmers Union Legislative Committee. “Discriminating against some customers just because they live in smaller markets is wrong.”

Specifically, Sombke met with Sen. John Thune, S.D.-R, and asked him to support the Senate Judiciary Committee version of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which was recently introduced by Chairman Patrick Leahy, Vt.-D, and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, Iowa-R. 

That bill, he said, was a “clean reauthorization without the special-interest add-ons that some cable and satellite companies are seeking.” 

The STELA law, which allows satellite providers to provide broadcast stations from outside the local market in limited circumstances, should be reauthorized before expiring at the end of the year. But some pay-TV providers are lobbying to add harmful language that would make it easier to raise consumer prices and make local broadcast channels more difficult to access.

If these changes were to become law, Sombke said many rural television markets would suffer from reduced revenue, ultimately leaving fewer options for rural customers.

For example, if a rural area broadcaster couldn’t afford to stay in business, its local viewers might only have access to large broadcasters that operate in far-away states or big cities, which would not provide the local news, weather and emergency alerts important to local communities.

“Senator Thune and many rural lawmakers are very aware of the situation and are sympathetic to the difficult position a STELA with stripped-down consumer protections could cause their constituents in rural America,” Sombke added.  “We thank them for their support.”

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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