Becky Ceartas, a program director for the Rural Advancement Foundation International – USA, said the new rules would improve a system that is inherently unfair. Her organization advocates for markets and policies that support socially just and environmentally sound family farms.
She said growers are often required to build expensive poultry houses on their farms as a condition for keeping contracts. Investments can exceed $300,000 per house and $1 million per farm, but companies currently can terminate contracts at any time for any reason, leaving farmers in debt and without income, she said.
Morison said she and her husband, Frank, installed a new type of drinker system and replaced clear vinyl curtains that enclose one side of the house with black curtains, required to better control the atmosphere inside the poultry houses and limit sunlight.
"If the chickens get up and move around and act like chickens do, they're using energy which is wasting feed," Morison said. "They just want them to eat and gain weight, not waste food energy doing other things."
But the Morisons drew the line at a requirement to fully enclose the chicken houses with solid walls and install a new ventilation system and new electrical system to further control the atmosphere.
"It was an expensive upgrade that was not necessary," she said. "We didn't feel that was the best way to raise the chickens, totally shutting off the sunlight and fresh air."
Add your voice
To comment on the proposed rules by the Aug. 23 deadline:
•Mail: Tess Butler, GIPSA, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave. S.W., Room 1643–S, Washington, DC 20250–3604
•Fax: (202) 690–2173
•Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: regulation.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
For more information: gipsa.usda.gov
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