WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2017 – The Department of Agriculture is planning to withdraw an interim final rule from the Obama administration that would have set proof of harm standards under the Packers and Stockyards Act.
In an advanced Federal Register notice posted Tuesday, USDA said the rule – colloquially referred to as the GIPSA rule after the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration – is being withdrawn “because of serious legal and policy concerns related to its promulgation and implementation.”
The decision is a win for major livestock groups and companies who pushed back against the rule since it was written into the 2008 farm bill. Opponents said the proof of harm language would have led to further vertical integration within the sectors in question, which would have only hurt the producers the rule was trying to protect.
“The regulations would have restricted the buying and selling of livestock, led to consolidation of the livestock industry – putting farmers out of business – and increased consumer prices for meat,” Ken Maschhoff, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said in a statement.
Opponents had help on Capitol Hill, where the implementation of the rule was blocked for years through appropriations riders. That changed toward the tail end of the Obama administration, but the leaders of the agriculture committees in both chambers retained their stance against the rule.
“Today’s decision helps restore both congressional intent and common sense by ensuring American producers have the freedom to market their products without the threat of frivolous lawsuits,” House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said in a statement.
But the proponents of the rule don’t see it that way. They saw the rule as a path forward for smaller producers that felt powerless in a contract grower system. In a statement, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association pointed out that the decision to withdraw “does not make the problem go away and in fact creates a loophole in which anti-competitive buying practices are not being properly addressed.”
Told by Agri-Pulse of USDA’s decision to withdraw the rule, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he had “violent opposition” to USDA’s decision, reacting in a way that blended shock and downright anger.
“If they would know how some of these people are treated that contract with these big multi-corporations, they wouldn’t be withdrawing that,” Grassley said. “They’re just pandering to big corporations. They aren’t interested in the family farmer.”
“Everybody thinks draining the swamp is firing a whole bunch of congressmen and a whole bunch of bureaucrats; it’s changing the culture of the bureaucracy,” he added. “This is a perfect example of a swamp that’s being refilled by withdrawing these rules.”
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