WASHINGTON – During a recent House Agriculture Committee hearing on the state of the US farm economy, two Democratic committee members questioned US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack about a timeline for completing an economic analysis of the department’s controversial Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) proposed rule, the American Meat Institute said.

Vilsack said in responding to inquiries from Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) that he did not have a definite timeframe in place for completion of the economic analysis of the proposed rule, being conducted by USDA Chief Economist Joseph Glauber, Ph.D.

In recent months, USDA has come under increased pressure, including a bipartisan letter signed by 115 members of the House of Representatives, for not conducting a thorough economic analysis of the proposed rule. More than 60,000 public comments were filed during the comment period, which closed on November 22, 2010, in response to the rule.

Vilsack was quoted by news sources at the meeting as saying the public comments were currently being “categorized and reviewed” and the department was “obviously interested in getting this process completed as appropriately and quickly as possible.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) followed up this line of questioning by asking Vilsack if the department would go through a notice-and-comment period on a completed economic analysis before moving forward on a final rule. Vilsack indicated he would need to consider the request internally before responding.

The rule could eliminate 104,000 US jobs, reduce national gross domestic product by $14 billion and cost $1.36 billion in lost revenues to the federal, state and local governments, According to an economic analysis commissioned by the AMI.