Congressional opposition to GIPSA rule mounts

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – One-hundred forty seven members of Congress – more than one-third of the members of the House of Representatives – asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a letter to go back to the drawing board with a rule on the marketing of livestock and poultry proposed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). Those signing the letter include both Republicans and Democrats and most members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Dairy Livestock, and Poultry.

“Withdrawing the June 22, 2010, proposed rule and re-proposing a revised rule once the Department completes its economic analysis would allow stakeholders the opportunity they deserve to comment on what we hope will be substantial changes to the proposed rule more consistent with the intent of Congress outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill,” the letter stated.

“I am grateful for the action taken by so many members of Congress in urging the Secretary of Agriculture to withdraw and re-propose the GIPSA rule,” said Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council. “This would allow dialogue to resume between affected industries and the USDA, a dialogue that was cut off by the end of the comment period in November. The GIPSA rule clearly needs more careful review in light of its impact on economic growth, jobs, and the Administration’s stated goal of doubling exports.”

“The sheer number of signatories on this letter is a testament to the growing concern on Capitol Hill about the proposed GIPSA rule,” said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president and CEO. “Congress is asking a fundamental and essential question: when will USDA tell us the price tag on this rule? We applaud the lawmakers, also, for reiterating that USDA exceeded its Congressional mandate in the proposed rule and that the proposal must be redrawn and re-written consistent with that mandate.”

GIPSA’s proposed rule would make profound changes in the relationship between ranchers and farmers who produce cattle, swine, chickens and turkey and the companies that bring meat and poultry products to market, NCC pointed out. GIPSA wrote the proposed rule in response to four specific mandates in the last Farm Bill after debate in which several other proposed mandates were rejected.

“Congress provided a narrow set of issues for the Department to address,” the letter said. “It is troubling that the Department appears to be using the rule-making process to accomplish objectives specifically rejected by Congress, and we are confident any such rule will not be looked upon favorably by Congress.”

Vilsack was also asked for an update on the timeline for completion of the economic analysis and further action on the proposal.

No detailed economic impact analysis was done by GIPSA when the proposed rule was first published because the agency claimed the rule was not economically significant. However, three private analyses, including one commissioned by AMI, found the proposal far exceeds the threshold that would require GIPSA to conduct a more comprehensive analysis. The proposal would cost $14 billion, AMI estimates.
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