USDA delays GIPSA rule, draws mixed reaction from ag groups
The Agriculture Department’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration announced April 11 that it is delaying the effective date of the Scope of Sections 202(a) and (b) of the Packers and Stockyards Act interim final rule that the Obama administration called the Farmer Fair Practices Rules for 180 days until Oct. 19.
In a separate action, USDA announced that it is also asking the public to comment on four possible actions USDA should take in regards to the disposition of the interim final rule. The comment due date is June 12, 2017.
“The extension allows ample time for stakeholders to review the effects of the Scope Interim Final Rule on their operations, and ensures maximum opportunity for dialogue across every segment of the livestock, meat and poultry industries,” said GIPSA Acting Administrator Randall Jones.
The announcements are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on April 18.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., praised the decision, as did pork, chicken and beef producers. But two groups called the move against the interest of farmers, and called on agriculture secretary nominee Sonny Perdue to work to finalize the rule once he is confirmed, as expected, and in office.
“The Obama administration made the imprudent decision to finalize this rule on their way out the door,” Roberts said. “I hope the Trump administration’s USDA will finally heed the concerns of farmers and ranchers and the Congress to get rid of this unneeded and unwanted rule.”
The National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association also praised the decision.
“With this extension notice, it is clear the administration has recognized this is a complicated and controversial issue with deep economic consequences for American poultry and livestock producers,” said NCC President Mike Brown.
“The comments filed have obviously had an impact, and we thank the department for postponing the effective date to allow for a more thorough and meaningful review,” Brown said. “We look forward to working with the administration and Congress to resolve this issue during this ‘timeout period’ of further review.”
“We’re extremely pleased that the Trump administration has extended the time it has to review this regulation and the public comments on it, which will show the devastating effects this rule would have on America’s pork producers,” said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill.
“The regulation likely would restrict the buying and selling of livestock, lead to consolidation of the livestock industry — putting farmers out of business — and increase consumer prices for meat,” Maschhoff said.
“This is another step toward commonsense and away from counterproductive government intrusion in the free market,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Craig Uden. “That said, while a delay is welcome, ultimately this rule should be killed and American cattle producers should be free to market our beef without the threat of government-sanctioned frivolous lawsuits.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation issued a more measured response. Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “It is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to the Agriculture Department’s Farmer Fair Practices Rules does not work across the board for all livestock sectors. The announced delay in the rules’ effective date until October will give farmers and ranchers additional time to comment on this important issue.”
“We support preserving the contract and marketing arrangements that are working for the beef and pork sectors, and we will reinforce that point during the comment period. There is still vast room for improvement, however, in efforts to ensure a level playing field for poultry farmers. We will continue to emphasize the need to seek additional safeguards in the poultry sector to better protect individual farmers from discriminatory treatment, without disrupting the business practices that are working in the beef and pork sectors.”
But Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition said, “Make no mistake, the delay in implementation of this important rule is anti-farmer.”
“The rule will help level the playing field for family farmers and ensure they have some recourse when their rights under the law are violated,” Hoefner said. “We hope and expect that when Sonny Perdue is confirmed as the next secretary of agriculture he and President Trump will support farmers and finalize the rule.”
Sally Lee, program director at Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, said, “We are shocked to hear that the USDA is delaying the implementation of rules that are meant to provide basic rights and protections to farmers and agricultural communities.”
“This decision poses a real threat to independent livestock and poultry businesses in the U.S.,” Lee said. “It also ignores the voices of American farmers, who risked retaliation to show their clear and strong support for these rules.”
“The USDA’s hasty step backwards — made without the input of a confirmed secretary of Agriculture — undermines President Trump’s pledge to look out for American farmers and rural voters.This delay indicates that the administration is putting lobbyists and special interests first.
“When Sonny Perdue is confirmed as secretary of Agriculture, we hope he will see this delay as the mistake that it is and work with President Trump to make good on his promises to the American people.”