WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2017 - The effective date for a new Agriculture Department rule that sets standards of proof for market practices in the livestock and poultry industry has been delayed two months until April 22.

The delay carries out a White House order issued the day President Trump took office to allow for review of rules that were implemented in the final weeks of the Obama administration.

The interim final rule that USDA's Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) released in December was originally scheduled to take effect Feb. 21. An announcement posted Monday both delayed the effective date and said the agency would take public comment on the rule until March 24.

A Jan. 20 memorandum signed by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus directed agencies to delay by 60 days new rules that had yet to take effect. The order also directed agencies to consider an additional delay beyond the 60-day period.

The interim rule is intended to aid producers in challenging processor contracting and buying practices. They say they have been unfairly required to prove that they harmed the entire market. The new rule would tell courts that a practice can violate the Packers and Stockyards Act without a legal finding of harm to competition.

A supporter of the rule said it was a good sign that USDA set a new effective date, even if it was delayed. “It is apparent that no decisions have been made, and that they are giving themselves more time, which is fine,” said Ferd Hoefner, senior strategic adviser for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "Whatever the final deadline turns out to be, the bottom line remains the same --  farmers have been waiting a very long time for USDA issues rules to implement the Packers and Stockyards Act, so we will remain vigilant to keep farmers front and center and keep their livelihoods the focus of the debate.

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USDA also will take public comment on two related proposed rules for 45 days. Those rules address the poultry grower ranking system – sometimes dubbed the tournament system – and unfair practices and undue preferences violations.

The first of those rules would give GIPSA set criteria for determining whether a dealer who provides contract growers with young birds is compensating the growers fairly. The second rule clarifies what would be considered a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, welcomed the extension, saying “it will allow time for additional light to be shone on these burdensome, midnight regulations released in the waning days of the Obama administration.”

“It is our goal that these controversial rules be rescinded and all options are on the table to achieve that. We look forward to providing the agency with NCC’s comments.”

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, urged the Trump administration to move forward with the rules. “Family farmers and ranchers have been waiting on the protections provided by the Farmer Fair Practices Rules for far too long, enduring heavily concentrated markets and the unfair practices associated with lack of competition. After having been delayed and obstructed for the past seven years, it’s time to end the unnecessary delays ... and allow these basic protections to be finalized."


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