USDA has no plan to pull GIPSA rule despite congressional letter |

USDA has no plan to pull GIPSA rule despite congressional letter

Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (DTN) – The Obama administration will not withdraw the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule regarding the marketing of livestock and poultry, even though a bipartisan group of 147 House members wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that it be rewritten, a USDA spokesman said late last week.

“Congress directed USDA to develop new GIPSA rules to promote marketplace competition in the 2008 farm bill. After issuing the proposed rule in 2010, USDA received over 60,000 comments and the agency is now working to modify and improve the rule based on these comments,” the spokesman said in an e-mail.

And, although last the May 18 letter to Vilsack also asked for a timeline on the proposal, a USDA source said that request is premature.

“It is still too early in the process to be able to predict a specific timeline or exactly what the final product will look like,” DTN was told. “Our focus is on getting the rule done right, and make sure that comments are addressed appropriately.”

In a reflection of concern among some livestock producers, the 2008 farm bill directed GIPSA to take a hard look at whether its regulation of the livestock and poultry marketplace was working.

On June 22, 2010, GIPSA published a proposed rule regarding unfair, deceptive and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry industries. That rule has divided livestock growers over whether it would create a fairer marketplace in which smaller producers would have a more equal position or whether it would create chaos in the industry and make certain marketing practices illegal or unworkable.

Reacting to the firestorm of controversy, USDA extended a comment period. An economic team led by USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber is analyzing the modified rule, the source said, and is in the beginning stages of a cost-benefit analysis, which will be followed by departmental and Office of Management and Budget clearance.

In their letter, House members led by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK); Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA); and Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), said they appreciated that USDA was analyzing the 60,000 comments and analyzing the economic benefits, but said that withdrawing the rule and re-proposing it “would allow stakeholders the opportunity they deserve to comment on what we hope will be substantial changes to the proposal more consistent with the intent of Congress outlined in the 2008 farm bill.”

Several of the changes USDA has proposed were rejected by Congress during the farm bill debate, the House members said.

The National Farmers Union also is sent a letter to every member of Congress on Monday, May 23, stating that lawmakers who passed the 2008 farm bill “took a firm stand for family farmers and ranchers. It is disappointing to see such noble actions twisted by the meat packing industry. This is the same industry that had huge profits last year as the livestock industry lost even more producers,” the NFU letter states.

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.


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