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House Republicans are trying to defund a Biden administration proposal to boost competition in poultry markets that is opposed by a Republican megadonor’s massive chicken company.
The House Appropriations Committee put language in its bill to fund the Department of Agriculture in 2024 that would prohibit the agency from advancing any further with the proposed rule, which is currently in the last stages of being finalized. “None of the funds made available by this or any other Act thereafter may be used to write, prepare, or publish a proposed rule, final rule, or an interim final rule in furtherance of, or otherwise to implement or enforce the proposed rule entitled ‘Transparency in Poultry Grower Contracting Tournaments,’” the bill reads.
The Biden administration proposed the rule last May that would require poultry companies to provide information to contract farmers that would help contract farmers make informed decisions for their businesses, such as details on how they will be compensated and information on the chicks and feed that the company would supply them with. Currently, the big poultry companies in the U.S. control the quality of the chicks and feed they provide to contract farmers, and yet they compensate the farmers through a “tournament system” where they pay less to farmers whose adult chickens come out smaller.
The Republicans’ efforts to stop the rule comes after a poultry company owned by Republican megadonor Ron Cameron launched a campaign to get its contract farmers to help it create the impression that it was strongly opposed throughout the industry. Reuters reported in August 2022 that the company, Mountaire Farms, was pressuring its farmers to sign and submit a form letter to the Department of Agriculture expressing opposition to the rule. Mountaire Farms is the fourth-largest poultry company in the U.S.
Cameron has provided Republicans and pro-Republican super PACs tens of millions of dollars in campaign funding over the years, according to Federal Election Commission records. His largest beneficiary has been the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC endorsed by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to which he has contributed more than $8.2 million. He has also donated $7 million to the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, $1.5 million to the Republican National Committee, and nearly $1.2 million to McCarthy’s Take Back the House 2022 joint fundraising committee. In March, Cameron donated $703,700 to McCarthy’s Protect the House 2024 fundraising committee.
A review of comments filed to the Department of Agriculture shows that at least 14 farmers submitted Mountaire’s form letter of opposition to the proposed rule.
The final rule is expected to be published this month, according to the timeline provided on Regulations.gov. The Appropriations Committee is meeting today to markup the Agriculture appropriations bill that would defund the proposed rule.
Cameron has donated $29,000 to the campaigns of Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), the chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee and the sponsor of the bill that would defund the proposal.
Poultry magnate Cameron was also one of the top donors to super PACs and groups backing Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, giving millions of dollars. The Trump administration loosened oversight of labor practices in the industry, where non-unionized contract work is widespread, by hindering members of the bipartisan National Labor Relations Board and slowing enforcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.