Grassley, Tester defend farmers; Perdue defends the meatpackers
Billings, Mont. – In a joint letter sent Oct. 18, to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) told the Secretary they “vehemently disagree” with his decision to abandon the GIPSA rules that were being promulgated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 (Act).
The letter also pointed out that “Congress intentionally instructed the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate new rules . . .” for which to implement the Act.
“This suggests the Secretary is ignoring his statutory mandate by abandoning these important rules,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
Bullard continued, “We applaud Senators Grassley and Tester for standing up for America’s farmers and ranchers in the wake of Secretary Perdue’s action of catering to the multinational meatpackers and their entrenched corporate trade associations.
Bullard said the Secretary has contradicted the findings of his own agency and is now attempting to deceive the public regarding his reasoning for abandoning the rules.
An e-mail from his agency this morning rationalized that the rules were abandoned because, “As many public comments noted, the purpose of the Act is to protect competition, not individual competitors.”
Bullard said this rationale is the exact opposite of the agency’s longstanding interpretation of the Act and it is no accident the agency attributes this rationale to “many public comments” and not to the agency itself.
“This is because this has never been the agency’s interpretation of the Act’s purpose.”
In the agency’s 2010 Federal Register notice, the USDA emphatically stated that the relevant provision in the Act do not contain “any language limiting its application to acts or practices that have an adverse effect on competition . . .” Instead, the agency wrote, the Act uses “terms including “deceptive,” “unfair,” “unjust,” “undue,” and “unreasonable” – which are commonly understood to encompass more than anticompetitive conduct.”
“It is disheartening that the USDA, which the Senators point out in their letter was once called ‘The People’s Department,’ is now acting in such a dishonest manner as to lie to the American people about why it is ignoring the interests of America’s farmers and ranchers,” Bullard concluded.