April 3, 2002 -- The Campaign for Family Farms (CFF), the coalition of farm groups who led the successful effort to vote down the mandatory pork checkoff, today announced their strong opposition to the appointment of Donna Reifschneider as the new administrator of USDAs Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). GIPSA is charged with the responsibility of promoting fair and competitive markets for agricultural products.
This appointment is a slap in the face to farmers, said Monica Kahout, a member of the Land Stewardship Project and spokesperson for CFF. The vast majority of family farmers want the government to rein in the agribusiness corporations that are attempting to completely control the livestock industry and drive out independent producers. We know where Reifschneider is on the issue of corporate concentration in agriculture. During her tenure at the National Pork Producers Council she supported meatpackers owning livestock.
Reifschneider was the president of the National Pork Producers Council during the CFFs successful petition drive to hold a vote on the mandatory pork checkoff. She was also the NPPC President during the collapse of the hog market in 1998 and 1999, when hog prices hit 8 cents a pound. The NPPC continued to collect the checkoff tax during the price crisis, even though thousands of hog farmers were going out of business. Following her tumultuous tenure as NPPC president, she was a member of the 1999 NPPC task force that supported packer ownership of livestock.
Reifschneiders track record at the NPPC speaks for itself, said Rhonda Perry, a Missouri Rural Crisis Center member and spokesperson for CFF. First, the majority of hog farmers voted to end the mandatory pork checkoff and she was working to keep the tax in place. Now, farmers want to ban meatpackers from owning livestock and wheres Reifschneider? Shes working to protect the interests of meatpacking giants like Cargill, Smithfield, and Tyson. The Bush Administration gave her the job because they know they can count on her to tow the corporate line.
Reifschneiders appointment makes it clear to producers that a ban on meatpackers owning livestock is needed now more than ever.
Having Reifschneider as head of GIPSA is like having the fox guard the chicken house, said Dale Leslein, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and spokesperson for CFF. We cant leave it up to her authority to enforce the law. We need innovative, strong laws to crack the corporate stranglehold over livestock markets. Leslein added, Livestock producers need to keep the pressure on the House of Representatives. The members of the House Conference Committee are opposing the packer ban passed by the Senate. The House members will decide whether were going to have a Farm Bill that helps family farmers or continues to give agribusiness corporations whatever they want.
The Campaign for Family Farms is a coalition of the following family farm organizations: The Land Stewardship Project (Minnesota), Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance.