The agricultural industry heavily relies on poultry farming, and it plays a significant role in supporting the economy. However, poultry farmers often face challenges when dealing with large integrator companies, which control various aspects of their operations. The Poultry Grower Fairness Act, introduced by Senator John Fetterman, proposes measures to address these concerns and provide greater protection for farmers by allowing courts to award funding for farmers representation if the court rules in their favor. In this post, I explore the potential benefits and downsides of passing this legislation.

Pro: Encouraging Legal Recourse for Farmers

One of the main concerns raised by poultry farmers is the lack of legal options when they encounter unfair practices from integrator companies. The Poultry Grower Fairness Act aims to address this by allowing farmers to seek legal recourse through the court system. By directing courts to award “reasonable attorney’s fees” to farmers who prevail in lawsuits against integrator companies, the bill seeks to level the playing field, making it more feasible for farmers to address their grievances.

Pro: Enhancing Transparency and Communication

In the current system, some poultry farmers feel that they have little control over important aspects of their operations, such as the health of the animals and the quality of the feed provided by integrators. The proposed legislation aims to improve transparency and communication between farmers and integrators, fostering a more collaborative and informed relationship. This, in turn, could lead to better decision-making and a healthier partnership for both parties.

Pro: Promoting Fair Competition and Market Diversity

Consolidation within the poultry industry can limit competition and reduce options for farmers. The Poultry Grower Fairness Act seeks to promote fair competition by providing support to smaller-scale poultry farmers. By fostering a diverse marketplace, the legislation can help maintain a healthy and resilient agricultural sector.

Con: The Overstepping of Federal Authority

Generally speaking, the allowance of courts to award “reasonable attorney fees” is fair. America is unique in that this is not always the default for the court, unlike countries such as the UK in which the court always awards attorney fees to the winner. However, this decision given that it is a matter of contractual law is meant to be handled at the state level. Interpretations of the commerce clause have made it so the federal government can often overstep judicial procedure that should be left to the states. In this case, the bill could be seen as federal overreach and an abuse of authority. 

Con: USDA Administrative Action

I have established that the main part of the law, which allows courts to award reasonable attorney fees to poultry farmers if they win, is for the most part good but may be a bit of federal overreach. The latter part of the bill, however, gives the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the ability to handle complaints internally through administrative actions such as injunctions and restraining orders. Currently, if the USDA wants to punish a company for activities deemed by them to be abusive, they must go through the Department of Justice (DoJ). 

While this may sound fine, the ability for a federal government agency to invoke consequences without the DoJ could prove detrimental to poultry companies and their ability to operate business. This overreach of agency power should and is concerning. In addition, it is questionable whether USDA has the legal capabilities and/or funding to even properly handle and decide on fair temporary punishments. 

Altogether it is best to leave the current system as is. In which the USDA must report complaints to the DoJ in order to enact legal repercussions on poultry companies. Even then, contracts in these situations are between two private companies and should be handled through the court system like any other contract. 


The Poultry Grower Fairness Act offers potential benefits for poultry farmers and the industry at large. By encouraging legal recourse for farmers and promoting transparency and communication between farmers and integrators, the legislation aims to create a more balanced and sustainable environment. Additionally, the focus on fair competition and market diversity could lead to a healthier agricultural sector. However, one should be very skeptical of the powers granted to the USDA under the act and the federal overreach into contract law. 

While it is probably best that the federally proposed law does not pass, North Carolina should heavily consider passing an act that allows courts in the state to award reasonable fees to poultry farmers.