Center for Rural Affairs Applauds USDA Decision to Proceed with GIPSA Rule

Lyons NE – In a move to streamline the public comment process, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack declined the request by 115 members of Congress to complete another comprehensive economic analysis of USDA’s proposed competitive livestock market reform rule (GIPSA rule).

The proposed GIPSA rule was published in the Federal Register on June 22, 2010 and the agency is now accepting public comments about the rule until November 22, 2010.According to Secretary Vilsack’s letter in response to the members of Congress who signed the request, USDA will not hold up the rulemaking process further to complete another economic analysis at this time.  (For a downloadable copy of Secretary Vilsack’s letter, go to www.cfra.org/competition)

“The proposed rule has started a dialogue on a number of complex issues in the livestock and poultry marketplace.  The proposal is a first step in an important process that will include serious consideration of the public comments and further cost-benefit analysis based on those comments.  Just as you do, I want a workable, feasible and commonsense rule, which is why we extended the comment period to 150 days to allow stakeholders additional time to comment on the proposal,” Secretary Vilsack wrote in his reply.

“We applaud Secretary Vilsack for standing firm and not allowing opponents of these crucial reforms to derail the rulemaking process,” said John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs.

According to Crabtree, there are two requirements for cost-benefit analysis in rulemaking.  Under Executive Order 12866, the agency issuing the rule provides an assessment of the potential costs and benefits of the regulatory action.  Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, agencies must consider the impact of their regulatory proposals on small entities, analyze effective alternatives that minimize small entity impacts, and make their analyses available for public comment.  GIPSA conducted both of these analyses (available at http://www.gipsa.usda.gov).

“The Center for Rural Affairs fully supports Secretary Vilsack’s decision,” said Crabtree.  “The call by meatpackers and the National Pork Producers Council for a new economic analysis is an obvious effort to delay, and hopefully derail, these long-awaited livestock market reforms.”

“These are the same sort of tactics the packers made during the rulemaking for country-of-origin labeling (COOL).  The packers threatened that they would require producers to pay for third-party certification of origin claims, require producers to make their records available to the packers for ‘random producer audits,’ and pass all the costs associated with COOL onto producers,” said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. “Those were hollow threats then, and these are hollow threats today.”

Secretary Vilsack concluded his letter of response by pointing out that GIPSA solicited specific comments no fewer than eight times about aspects of the proposal’s costs and benefits and their magnitudes.  In addition to those solicitations, GIPSA invited comments on potential unforeseen consequences of the proposed regulations, their related magnitudes and whether all types of cost-benefit categories had been considered.

“USDA has done their homework and written a strong rule that should move forward and become law.  The meatpacking industry and their commodity group lackeys do not want livestock markets to be more competitive because they want to reserve the right to put the screws to family farmers, ranchers and feeders whenever they damn well please,” Crabtree explained.

“I attended the USDA/Justice Department hearing on competition and antitrust in livestock markets that was held in late August in Fort Collins, Colorado.  And I told Secretary Vilsack then – as did a lot of family hog farmers, ranchers and small cattle feeders – that if he stands with family farmers, ranchers and feeders on this GIPSA rule, then tens of thousands of rural Americans, both in and out of livestock production, will stand with him,” Crabtree added.  “It sure seems like he was listening, which is good because it’s better to be on the side of all those family farmers and ranchers than a couple of big, transnational meatpacking corporations.”

For more information visit: www.cfra.org.

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