Groups Respond to USDA’s GIPSA Rules

Jamie JohansenAg Group, Livestock, Meat, NCBA, NFU, NPPC

USDA_logoMany livestock organizations have concerns with the regulations on the buying and selling of livestock and poultry after the USDA sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review three rules – the “Farmer Fair Practices Rules” – that would “help balance the relationships between livestock producers, swine production contract growers, and poultry growers and the packers, swine contractors, and live poultry dealers with whom they interact.”

Issued by USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) as an interim final rule and two proposed rules, the regulations are supposedly revisions of rules first proposed by GIPSA in 2010 to implement provisions Congress included in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“Pork producers are concerned that, like the 2010 proposed rules, the ones sent to OMB would have a negative effect on the pork industry, from producers to packers and ultimately consumers,” said National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) CEO Neil Dierks. “While the specifics of the actual rules are not yet clear, we’re worried about their impact on the ability of producers to secure financing and to innovate and about them potentially leading to greater vertical integration without offering positive advantages to the industry and consumers.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Tracy Brunner said, “The GIPSA rules, as they pertain to cattle producers, are extremely troubling to our industry at a time when we are already grappling with volatile futures markets and a fragile cash market. Rather than working to help ensure producers have accurate price information in a productive way, like ensuring Mandatory Price Reporting is a critical government function, unaffected by future government shutdowns; USDA is expending time and resources to push forward outdated rules to regulate an industry that never requested their assistance. These rules were flatly rejected by cattle producers six years ago and a strong bi-partisan majority in Congress expressed their continual disapproval through a half-decade of defunding.”

“It is irresponsible for USDA to advance this stale six year old rulemaking,” said North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “The interim final rule as described will open a floodgate of litigation, up-end the established system for marketing cattle, pork, and poultry in the U.S., and add costs at every step along the process from producers to consumers.”

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, said “While the impact of these rules is not fully known, if they are in any way similar to the 2010 GIPSA proposal, I have serious concerns that the U.S. livestock, poultry, and meat sectors will be tremendously burdened and experience irreparable harm during already difficult economic times,” said Charmian Roberts. “I have opposed the GIPSA rules since 2010, and Congress repeatedly voiced disapproval of this proposal over the past six years. In April 2016, I sent a letter to USDA urging the agency to reconsider issuing the rules. I heard concerns about the GIPSA rules from farmers and ranchers at a hearing in May. At another hearing in September, I pressed USDA Secretary Vilsack on this matter. I will continue to advocate for the interests of livestock, poultry, and meat producers as these rules moves forward due to the harm they will cause, not only in my home state of Kansas but across the country.”

However, National Farmers Union (NFU) believes it will help balance the relationships between producers and meat packers in the concentrated livestock and poultry industries. NFU fCEO Roger Johnson said, “Livestock producers and poultry growers have been waiting too long for much needed protections against the fraudulent, anti-competitive practices they fall victim to in the marketplace. We applaud USDA for staying committed to publishing rules that seek to protect producers, growers, consumers and the industry alike.”