USDA has extended for another 90 days the comment period to the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's proposed rule on livestock marketing. Announced June 18, the proposed rule suggests major changes to the way producers can market their cattle. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called the proposal one of the most sweeping reforms of the Packers and Stockyards Act. President of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Illinois cattle producer Steve Foglesong says as such it's extremely important that producers thoroughly understand the rule and both its intended and unintended consequences on the U.S. cattle community.
Colin Woodall, Vice President of Government Affairs for NCBA, says on the surface this rule has the potential to take the beef industry back 30 years by stifling the innovative efforts of U.S. cattle producers to add value and enhance the quality and safety of their products for consumers in the United States and abroad.
During a House Agriculture subcommittee hearing last week, Democrats and Republicans expressed to USDA that the scope of the proposed rule goes well beyond what Congress intended under the 2008 Farm Bill.
The American Farm Bureau Federation is pleased that USDA has extended the comment period by 90 days. AFBF initially requested a 120-day extension to better analyze the economic and legal impacts of the rule on producers, However; National Farmers Union is disappointed and calls the 90-day extension excessive.
NFU President Roger Johnson says extending the comment period gives leverage for packers to offer lower prices to producers as a fear mechanism. Johnson adds that while USDA is taking a step in the right direction with this rule the process needs to be expedited instead of slowed down.
Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman points out that the rule's regulatory changes will impact each operation differently. The impact will vary depending on the type of animal produced on an operation, the ways the producer markets his or her product and the location of a producer's operation relative to slaughter and processing facilities.
Farm Bureau policy does not cover many portions of the rule so according to Stallman they will require additional analysis.
Also coming down against the extension is a coalition of 66 farm, consumer, rural and rural development organizations from across the United States. They believe that GIPSA is well within its authority to issue proposed regulations clarifying how the agency intends to administer and enforce the nearly 90-year-old Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. In a letter sent to Congress before the comment period extension was announced the group called delaying the comment period little more than an effort to delay and ultimately derail the proposed rule itself.
The joint letter states that the Packers and Stockyards Act makes it unlawful for packers, swine contractors and live poultry dealers to engage in any unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive practice or device, or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person or locality in any respect, or subject any particular person or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage in any respect. R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard points out that GIPSA has never issued the regulations necessary to define these broad prohibitions in order to adequately enforce the protections for livestock and poultry producers.