By Agri-Pulse staff
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, June 22 - Some farm and ranch groups applauded when the Obama campaign pledged to restore open and competitive markets and fair contracts for livestock and poultry producers. When the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) issued a strong rule protecting farmers and ranchers last year, those same groups cheered again. However, their enthusiasm seems to be waning.
“The Obama Administration needs to act now to implement and enforce the GIPSA rule. Farmers and ranchers need a fair marketplace now more than ever. We have waited long enough,” emphasized National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson in a statement marking the one-year anniversary of the proposed GIPSA rule.
Yet, facing strong opposition from members of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees, and some of the nation’s largest livestock organizations, the Administration has yet to issue a final rule. Now, the NFU, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and other farm and ranch organizations that collectively represent thousands of family farmers and ranchers have organized a weeklong call-in campaign to tell President Obama that the GIPSA rule should be issued now.
Three years ago, Congress directed USDA to define and enforce key provisions in the Packers and Stockyards Act outlawing price discrimination against small and mid-sized farmers and other unfair practices. One year ago, the Grain Inspection and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) issued a proposed rule that would reign in some of the worst practices of mega packers and processors.
“The push back from the corporate packers and processors who profit from the status quo has been fierce,” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC’s Policy Director. “Price manipulation, price discrimination and unjust and one-sided contracts have all been very good for their bottom lines.”
Last week, at the behest of the meat and poultry industry, the House passed an agricultural appropriations bill with a rider denying GIPSA any funds to complete their rulemaking process. The bill now moves on to the Senate.
“We’re pleased that the President and USDA Secretary Vilsack have criticized the appropriations rider and defended the GIPSA proposed rule,” said Hoefner, “but now is the time for USDA to get the final rule out the door and working to provide farmers and ranchers with clear protections and fairer prices under the Packers & Stockyards Act.”
Several livestock and poultry groups expressed strong support for last week’s House action:
“The National Pork Producers Council is grateful that the House is requiring USDA to take a timeout on the GIPSA rule, which as proposed is bad for farmers and ranchers, bad for consumers and bad for rural America,” said NPPC President Doug Wolf. “And contrary to the proclamations from some general farm groups, the vast majority of livestock and poultry producers strongly oppose this regulation, which would cost them millions of dollars and lead to thousands of lost jobs.”
“At a time when cattlemen are wondering why the federal government seems determined to put them out of business, it is encouraging to see the U.S. House of Representatives push back on government overreach into the private marketplace,” National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bill Donald said. “If this rule is implemented, family farmers and ranchers have the most to lose with consumers riding shotgun. This rule will kill jobs and consumer choice and will depopulate rural America. Jobs on the ranch will be lost and trial lawyers will be the only ones to reap rewards. The Senate needs to follow suit by stopping funding for this rule.”
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