“Cattlemen and women don’t appreciate Secretary Vilsack throwing a grenade in the building as he abandons it.”
That’s how Tracy Brunner, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, characterized the Dec. 14 release of USDA’s final rulemaking on the 2010 Grain Inspection, Packers a Stockyards Act. Brunner says the provisions in the final three-part rule are very similar to the 2010 proposed rules that industry groups have consistently voiced concern about and that Congress has repeatedly defunded because of the harm it would cause the industry.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mike Weaver, poultry grower and president of the Organization for Competitive Markets, said, “The Organization for Competitive Markets sees the GIPSA regulations as a step forward in protecting farmers against the imbalance of power which has been in the favor of the poultry companies, leaving contract poultry growers as mere serfs for some of the world's largest multi-national food corporations and industrial factory farm interests. We call on everyone to make comments and urge both the Obama and Trump administrations to finalize these rules."
In addition, Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said, “The Agriculture Department’s Farmer Fair Practice Rules take an important step toward leveling the playing field in the poultry industry by ensuring companies follow the law and treat farmers fairly, without disrupting beef and pork markets.”
Brunner, however, isn’t so sure. “The GIPSA rules are especially troubling to the cattle industry. As we have consistently stated, if adopted, this rulemaking will drastically limit the way producers can market cattle and open the flood gates to baseless litigation. In a time of down cattle markets, the last thing USDA needs to do is limit opportunity,” he said.
“USDA is going well beyond their statutory limitations, limiting marketing options for a product that America is demanding,” he continued. “If USDA were interested in real solutions rather than increased government regulations, they wouldn’t have rushed these rules out the door at the very close of the administration’s term, bypassing any input from industry.”
And even if the rules are finally adopted, it appears that Congress may well step in. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Ag Committee, said, “Unfortunately, USDA has chosen to ignore my persistent appeals over the last six years—along with the appeals of livestock producers—by finalizing rules that will limit the economic freedom of America’s farmers and ranchers. I’m deeply disappointed Secretary Vilsack and the Obama Administration are taking such action towards rural America as their terms come to an end and during the holidays.”
Likewise, House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) voiced disappointment. “I am disappointed that the generally productive and non-partisan relationship I’ve developed with USDA over the past two years has culminated in a last-minute effort to push through a partisan trio of rules—even despite assurances that they would be tabled for more thorough and appropriate consideration by the incoming administration,” Conaway said.
“It’s particularly troubling given Congressional disapproval with the overreach of these costly rules dating back to their original proposal in 2010. I will make it a priority to roll back these, and other midnight regulations from the Obama Administration, as soon as Congress returns in January.”