PORTLAND — Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree says a spending bill approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee unfairly curtails the free speech rights of chicken farmers.

Pingree, a Democrat, says the bill takes away protections for farmers who speak publicly about the way they are treated by large processing companies.

Pingree says the bill would undo work to protect the speech rights of chicken farmers in recent years. She says contract farmers who raise chickens for bigger processors are often punished financially if they speak up about unfair practices.

Several farm industry organizations, including the American Farm Bureau, also say they are opposed to provisions that infringe on the speech rights of farmers. The spending bill was approved on Tuesday.

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