Senators urge USDA to extend comment period for new livestock & poultry regulations

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, July 23 –Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), along with 15 Senate colleagues, sent a letter Friday to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting a 120-day extension in the public comment period regarding new rules proposed by the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). The senators said the proposed regulations, which affect enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, require additional time for stakeholders to adequately analyze all aspects of the proposed rule.

The proposal goes well beyond the requirements of the farm bill, exceeds USDA’s legislative authority, and will have significant consequences for the livestock and poultry producers it is designed to protect,” said Sen. Chambliss. “I am concerned that this proposal will dramatically alter livestock and poultry production and thereby harm the very farm and ranch families that the rule is intended to protect. The Department should carefully consider these issues as it moves forward and extend the comment period to give all affected stakeholders the opportunity to offer their perspective on the proposal.”

This proposed rule will have a tremendous impact on Arkansas’s rural communities, agriculture industry, and economy as a whole,” Sen. Lincoln said. “Therefore, it is only fair that the comment period be extended to allow adequate time for all stakeholders to have an opportunity to review and comment on proposed changes that will directly impact how they do business”

Full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We are writing in regard to the recent rule proposed by the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) to amend regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act. We appreciate the Department’s interest in completing the regulatory process that has taken over two years thus far, but believe it is important that USDA allow adequate time for all stakeholders to understand the implications of the broad reforms proposed. Altering the way the Packers and Stockyards Act will be enforced is not something that should be done without adequate time to analyze all aspects of the proposed rule, including its impact on rural economies across the country. Thus, we strongly believe that given the breadth and depth of the proposed rules, a 120-day extension in the public comment period is necessary to allow adequate stakeholder participation.

The Packers and Stockyards Act, enacted almost 90 years ago, is one of the most important laws governing competition within the livestock industry. The United States courts have spent the better part of a century interpreting this statute and the related regulations to build a body of law governing competition within livestock agriculture. Producers and processors rely upon this body of law to govern their business relationships and it is imperative that all stakeholders have a reasonable opportunity to comment on proposed changes that will have a direct impact on how they do business.

We are also concerned the Department is missing a unique opportunity to hear directly from the various stakeholders on this issue. Given the time and effort the USDA and the Department of Justice have invested in the listening sessions on competition in the U.S. agriculture sector, we believe the Department could benefit from information gathered during the listening sessions. Thus we believe it would be prudent for the Department to extend the comment period beyond the December 6th conclusion of the workshops in order to review all comments gathered in the USDA/DOJ listening sessions.

GIPSA’s proposed rules significantly change the way the Packers and Stockyards Act is interpreted. The impact of the rule on producers will vary according to the kind of livestock or poultry they produce, the way producers market their product, and the location of a producer’s operation relative to slaughter and processing facilities. As you move forward, we urge USDA to carefully consider the proper role and scope of federal regulation in this area and to actively listen to the concerns of everyone who will be impacted by the proposal. To that end, we ask specifically that you extend the comment period for this proposal by 120 days.

Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely, Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss
U.S. Senator Kit Bond
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback
U.S. Senator Jim Bunning
U.S. Senator Richard Burr
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran
U.S. Senator John Cornyn
U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
U.S. Senator James Inhofe
U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson
U.S. Senator Mike Johanns
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor
U.S. Senator James Risch
U.S. Senator Pat Roberts
U.S. Senator John Thune

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