WASHINGTON, July 22, 2015 –The Agriculture Department may try again to impose new regulations on the business relationships between processors and the livestock and poultry producers. At the direction of Congress, USDA withdrew three of four regulations that the department tried to implement using authority under the 2008 farm bill. With those regulations now off the books, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees didn’t include a policy rider in their version of USDA’s fiscal 2016 spending bill to prohibit the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration from implementing new regulations.
Such restrictions on GIPSA have been a staple of USDA appropriations bills since fiscal 2012. If the GIPSA prohibition doesn’t re-appear, USDA will have a green light to write a new rule. “If an appropriations bill is signed into law without a rider preventing us from doing so, USDA is prepared to move forward with the rulemaking process,” a USDA official tells Agri-Pulse.
The fourth regulation, which is still on the books, is a prohibition against requiring mandatory arbitration in grower contracts. Commenting on the absence of a GIPSA rider in the pending fiscal 2016 bills, the National Chicken Council said the most troubling regulations are now gone. The fiscal 2015 omnibus spending bill ordered USDA to rescind the other three provisions, which addressed issues such as suspension of delivery of birds and remedy for breach of contract.
“We all want our farmers to strive and to prosper,” says NCC President Mike Brown. “The ultimate success of the chicken company, and the entire industry, depends on it.”
Supporters of the regulation will likely wait for the fiscal 2016 appropriations measure to become law to ask USDA to consider proposing new regulations. “You will hear more about it, I am sure,” said Ferd Hoefner, Washington policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
“USDA would start with a clean slate and could re-propose any set of rules it feels are necessary to implement and enforce the Packers and Stockyards Act, including possibly some or all of the proposed rules that never went final, or permutations thereof, and/or some or all of the rescinded rules, or permutations thereof,” Hoefner tells Agri-Pulse. “It would be very surprising to see the whole corpus return. Far more likely would be a handful of proposed rules targeting some of the worst abuses.”
USDA proposed the original rule in 2010 but finalized it in December 2011 without the most contentious of the regulations. Processors continued to lobby against them until the fiscal 2015 bill forced the withdrawal of the three regulations.
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