GIPSA: Farm Bill, Price Concerns Key Issues

Larry Mitchell, USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA) wpx13-GIPSAadminister, along with Deputy Administrator Susan Keith, spent the day at the 25th anniversary of the World Pork Expo. While attending the event, the two took some time for an answer and question session to give the pork industry and update on close term challenges and opportunities.

The biggest challenge not only for pork producers but agriculture in general, said Mitchell, is the passage of a farm bill. The Senate version (and House version) of Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 has hundreds of amendments that if passed, or not, could affect agriculture. As of this writing, the Senate voted for cloture and will be voting on the bill on Monday.

In addition to the need for a long-term farm bill, Keith said another key issue is price concerns for independent food producers in the U.S. This, she said, on the swine side is one of their biggest concerns because with a very thin market it’s really hard to assure there is a legitimate price discovery and ensuring that the prices that become part of a contract are fair and determined in a manner that is justified.

GIPSA Update: Farm Bill, Price Concerns Key Issues

Visit the 2013 World Pork Expo photo album.

FARRM Bill Amendments: What Made the Cut

More was proposed than adopted, but in the end, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, better known as the FARRM bill, moved out of the House Agriculture committee with 43 amendments (see a complete list of what was approved, defeated, withdrawn and tabled here from our friends at

One of the more significant amendments that passed kills the controversial Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rulemaking issue that caused so much consternation for the livestock industry. The GIPSA amendment, introduced by Reps. Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Jim Costa (D-CA), reins in what some lawmakers saw as the USDA overstepping its authority from the 2008 Farm Bill in dealings between meatpackers and producers. “The rulemaking went well beyond the intent of the 2008 Farm Bill and threatened livestock and poultry marketing as we know it,” Conaway told the committee. He added that it particularly threatened value-added marketing opportunities. But Conaway found resistance from Ranking Member Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), who said, “You are opening up one huge can of worms with this, and I don’t think it’s smart.” Peterson also pointed out that this is a non-starter in the Senate. Despite his misgivings, the amendment passed by a voice vote.

Listen to the debate on the measure here: Debate in House Ag Committee on GIPSA amendment
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Congress Restricts Implementation of GIPSA Rule

Implementation of USDA’s proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard’s Administration (GIPSA) rule is being restricted under legislation passed yesterday by Congress.

Congress passed a $19.8 billion 2012 agricultural spending bill Thursday that includes language blocking USDA from implementing the controversial reforms to livestock and poultry marketing proposed last year and opposed by major livestock organizations, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).

NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall says this means USDA is barred from conducting any further work this year on sections of the rule not yet finalized. “The other four provisions in the farm bill will be going final, and those focus more on poultry than on the cattle industry,” he says. “All of the other outstanding issues that had to do with the cattle industry have either been taken off the table or with this language have been defunded. So it really protects the cattle industry and makes sure that we can continue to develop new marketing alternatives without the government getting involved.”

Woodall stresses that this is not the end of the battle because the defunding language runs only through the end of the fiscal year, which is September 30, 2012. “At that point in time, USDA could revisit the rule, especially in regards to competitive injury and undue preferences,” he said. “So, we need to make sure that we maintain the pressure on Congress to try to find a permanent fix to keep the government out of cattle marketing for as long as possible.”

Listen to or download my interview with Colin here: NCBA's Colin Woodall

Senator Pat Roberts Comments at John Deere Opening

john deere olathe pat robertsYou can always count on Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) to liven up any gathering and leave them laughing.

At the John Deere Olathe opening last Friday, Sen. Roberts did just that. “Anyone know a good copyright lawyer?” the senator asked as he took the podium after speeches by Deere’s John Lagemann and Dave Everitt and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. “I’ve been giving the speech that Dave, and John and Sam just gave for the last six months.”

True to form, Roberts mixed his droll brand of humor in with serious comments about feeding the world, praise for John Deere, and political jabs against the current administration. “I don’t know why anybody would propose a budget that would interfere with what we have to do in terms of feeding this country and a troubled and hungry world,” Roberts said. “And I sure as heck don’t know why we are pouring out regulations left and right from every agency especially EPA, that would hinder the production of a wonderful company like this.”

Listen to or download Pat Roberts’ comments at John Deere Olathe opening: Pat Roberts at John Deere Olathe

john deere olatheI took the opportunity to interview Roberts, who is ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, about what’s going on in Washington DC.

Roberts agrees that agriculture must do its part for deficit reduction but opposes the administration proposal to cut crop insurance. “That’s not going to fly, that’s dead on arrival.” He’s working with other agriculture committee leaders in both the Senate and the House to develop a proposal for the Super Committee. “If we do that, it is conceivable that we can do a farm bill at the same time.”

Regarding over-regulation, Roberts says he has proposed regulatory reform legislation for all major government agencies, including EPA or what he calls the “End of Production Agriculture” agency, and he is continuing to fight USDA’s controversial Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard’s Administration (GIPSA) proposal. “Some of these agencies are out of control,” Roberts said. “This would be terribly counter productive to the livestock industry.”

Listen to or download my interview with the senator here: Pat Roberts interview at John Deere Olathe Facility

GIPSA Proposal an Example of Flawed Regulation

USDA’s proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard’s Administration (GIPSA) proposal was one example of “How A Broken Process Leads To Flawed Regulations” at a House Committee hearing today, and the committee chairman apparently thinks its a good one.

“GIPSA’s proposed rule change under the Packers and Stockyards Act is a blatant attempt to regulate livestock marketing practices that could literally dismantle the food production and supply markets as we know them,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). “This would mean higher prices and fewer options for consumers, as well as impacts on food producers and firms at every point in the supply chain. GIPSA’s rule was pursued with a woefully inadequate economic impact analysis. Today’s hearing has called attention to this key issue and points out the price paid by producers, distributors and consumers.”

Testimony on how the GIPSA rule if implemented would impact the livestock industry was given to the committee by Robbie LeValley, Colorado cattle producer and part-owner of a small business that sells specialty beef directly to consumers. “Value-based marketing has given our family business the opportunity to compete for market share at the highest level,” she said in her testimony. “We do not need big government setting up shop on our farms and ranches. Government intrusion into the private marketplace is not the answer.”

Listen to Robbie’s testimony here: Robbie LeValley Testimony on GIPSA

In case you are not worried about government over-regulation, here is a scary statistic from the committee hearing description:

Employment at regulatory agencies has climbed 13 percent since President Obama took office, and the number of staff working on regulatory matters is on schedule to increase at a rate of 10,000 new regulatory employees per year in 2011 and 2012.


GIPSA Likely Topic for Regulation Hearing

The title makes it sound more like a morality play than a government hearing but “How a Broken Process Leads to Flawed Regulations” is what the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is calling the hearing on Wednesday morning to look into government over-regulation. One of the scheduled witnesses is Colorado cattle producer Robbie LeValley and you can bet your boots that she’ll be talking about the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard’s Administration (GIPSA) proposal.

Robbie, who is also part owner of Homestead Meats, already testified about the impact the GIPSA rule would have on cattle producers before a House Small Business Committee hearing in July. “The proposed GIPSA rule will destroy our small business model, force us to lay off our employees, cripple our ability to market our cattle way we want to and limit consumer choice,” she said. Robbie also talked about how the threat of over-regulation is her biggest concern in an interview from the summer cattle industry meeting.

Another hearing on Wednesday that has the attention of the cattle industry is the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry hearing on feed availability, especially considering the latest USDA report showing tighter grain supplies and higher prices. That hearing will be held at 1:30 pm Eastern time, while the regulation hearing is scheduled for 9:30 am.

Mike Deering with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) did a great Beltway Beef interview with their Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts on both the hearings, as well as what the USDA announcement today regarding additional strains of E. coli means for beef producers. In it, I note that both Deering and Kristina skillfully avoid the technical details of that announcement “declaring six additional strains of non-O157 shiga toxin-producing E. coli (non-O157 STECs), including O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145, as adulterants.” I think Mike missed his calling as a farm broadcaster!

House Hearing on How GIPSA Hurts Small Business

The last post we did with a lawmaker’s opinion on GIPSA, we got hammered with comments. That was fun – let’s do it again!

Last time, it was Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) who had negative comments about USDA’s controversial Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard’s Administration (GIPSA) proposal. This time, it’s Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), chairman of the House Small Business Committee’s Agriculture, Energy and Trade Subcommittee. Earlier this month, Tipton held a subcommittee hearing entitled “How USDA’s Proposed GIPSA Rule Hurts America’s Small Businesses.

Tipton says if the “Job-Crushing GIPSA Proposed Regulation” is adopted it “has the potential to reduce gross domestic product by over $1.5 billion and cost the U.S. economy nearly 23,000 jobs.” He’s most concerned that USDA “fully comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) and ensure that USDA understands the private-sector costs of the regulations it is imposing on all sectors within the livestock industry.”

One of the witnesses at the July 7 hearing was USDA Undersecretary Edward Avalos, who said the agency is “fairly close” to completing the final economic analysis on the proposed rule, but that it was “too early in the process” yet to answer any specific questions related to economic impact.

Robbie LeValley of LeValley Ranch in Hotchkiss, Colorado was also a witness at the hearing. “The proposed GIPSA rule will destroy our small business model, force us to lay off our employees, cripple our ability to market our cattle way we want to and limit consumer choice,” she said.

Other witnesses with similar messages included Gary Malenke of Sioux-Preme Pork Products and Joel Brandenberge, President of the National Turkey Federation.

You can watch the whole hearing here:

GIPSA Debate on AgWired

A story about comments Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) made this week regarding USDA’s proposed GIPSA livestock marketing regulations has generated a flood of comments, thanks to an organized campaign by R-CALF USA.

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, better known as R-CALF, took exception to the senator’s remarks during a Senate Agriculture Committee Hearing on the State of U.S. Livestock and sent out a communique to members encouraging them to make comments on the post, calling it a “rare opportunity to defend the GIPSA rule against packer lackeys.”

R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard says Sen. Roberts made “a personal attack against GIPSA Administrator Dudley Butler in an attempt to kill the GIPSA rule” so he returned fire with his own personal attack on the senator:

“Senator Pat Roberts made the most dishonorable and repulsive opening statement that anyone could possibly make at a congressional hearing. Whether you support USDA’s proposed GIPSA rule or not, every American should be appalled at Senator Robert’s theatrics. He lied. He outright lied. Senator Roberts knows, and all his staff knows, that GIPSA Administrator Dudley Butler NEVER said that the proposed GIPSA rule is a lawyer’s dream.”

There have been ethical concerns raised about Butler being in charge of livestock regulations, since he is a trial lawyer who has sued meat and poultry companies and the referenced quote is from a speech Butler made in August 2009 to the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), where he said “When you have a term like ‘unfair, unreasonable or undue prejudice,’ that’s a plaintiff lawyer’s dream.”

The proposed GIPSA rule, which would have a significant impact on the marketing and production of livestock and poultry, is obviously a contentious and divisive topic for the industry but it would help if there were more constructive dialogue and less name calling.

GIPSA Dominates Senate Committee Hearing

The topic of the hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday was “The State of Livestock in America” but much of the testimony centered around USDA’s controversial Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard’s Administration (GIPSA) proposal.

In a strong statement at the start of the hearing, ranking member Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) said that GIPSA proposal is in direct opposition to the intent of Congress under the 2008 Farm Bill.

“As a result, we are looking at a proposed rule that is undoubtedly significant in its economic impact and which threatens to undo years of livestock marketing arrangements that have benefited both livestock producers and consumers,” said Roberts. “At a time when many talk about how agriculture is going to help lead the rebound for our economic recovery, it makes no sense to me why we would try to hamstring this industry, and take away marketing tools that will have far reaching implications in both the domestic and international marketplace.”

Watch Roberts get fired up about GIPSA here:

GIPSA Funding Cut in Ag Appropriations Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives today voted 217-203 to pass the agricultural appropriations bill for fiscal 2012, cutting $2.7 billion in discretionary spending, including funds for USDA’s proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) regulation.

nppc doug wolfThe National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), both opposed to the proposed rule, are pleased that the appropriations bill could put it on hold. “The National Pork Producers Council is grateful that the House is requiring USDA to take a time out on the GIPSA rule, which as proposed is bad for farmers and ranchers, bad for consumers and bad for rural America,” said NPPC president Doug Wolf of Wisconsin, who adds that the rule would cost the pork supply chain about $333 million a year.

ncba foglesongNCBA past president Steve Foglesong of Illinois says their beef cattle producer members are thrilled with the vote in the House. “When we had our annual meeting back in February, the priority coming out was this GIPSA rule,” Steve said. “It was one thing our members said absolutely cannot happen.”

Other organizations pleased with the action include the National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council and American Meat Institute. The appropriations measure still must go through the Senate and is likely to change substantially.

Listen to comments from Doug and Steve here: NPPC and NCBA on GIPSA Funding

GIPSA Heating Up

It’s been almost exactly a year since USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) published a controversial proposed rule that would fundamentally change the way livestock is marketed in this country, and those opposed to it remain hopeful that the proposal itself will be fundamentally changed – or just eliminated.

Colin Woodall with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says they are encouraged that the U.S. House of Representatives could vote soon on the 2012 agriculture appropriations bill, which includes language to defund the proposed GIPSA rule. “So we are really working hard to make sure we preserve that language,” Colin says in the latest Beltway Beef Commentary. He encourages cattle producers and others in the industry to contact their Congressional representatives and send a signal to the secretary that we’re “serious about this rule being a huge burden on cattle producers.”

USDA’s official position on the appropriations language is that “The final rule has not yet been published and any concerns about the rule are better addressed through the standard rulemaking process than through an appropriations rider.”

Earlier this month, American Farm Bureau Appropriations Specialist R.J. Karney said they also believe funding for the rule should stay in place. “We want USDA to be able to review the 60,000 comments that were provided and also continue the economic analysis regarding this procedural rule,” he said. Colin explained that NCBA has a long-standing relationship with AFBF, “so this is not an issue that NCBA is now breaking a relationship with Farm Bureau, this is specific to trying to make sure that everybody understands exactly what this GIPSA rule does…take away marketing opportunities for cattle producers.”

Pork producers also remain concerned about the proposed rule. “The rule is so vague, we don’t know where it stands,” said National Pork Producers Council past president Sam Carney of Iowa at World Pork Expo last week. He says they are anxious to see what the USDA economic analysis will say, but that is not expected to be out until the fall.

Listen to or download Sam’s comments here: Iowa pork producer Sam Carney

Wrapping Up at World Pork Expo

After torrential downpours over night, it’s pretty quiet here on the last day of World Pork Expo.

We had some serious rain during the day yesterday, but it all cleared up just in time for the bands to start playing and the roasted hogs to come out. National Pork Producers Association CEO Neil Dierks says the expo was excellent this year, especially day one. “We haven’t heard the numbers yet, but we won’t be surprised if it’s not the best first day we’ve had for many, many years – even though it was 94 degrees and about 97 percent humidity,” he said.

Neil says producers are “reasonably pleased” with the current state of the industry, but concerned about issues facing them such as feed availability, getting trade agreements approved and government regulation, especially the proposed GIPSA rule.

Listen to or download my interview with Neil here: NPPC CEO Neil Dierks

Waiting for GIPSA

It’s been 11 months since it was first published and six months since the comment period ended, but it will be several more months yet before USDA makes a decision on the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule.

“There were 66,000 comments, about 30,000 of which are unique,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told an agriculture committee meeting last week. “Our hope is that we get this done sometime in the fall.”

Last week, 147 members of Congress sent Vilsack a letter about the proposed rule urging him “to proceed in a manner that allows further public comment on revisions to the proposal and the pending economic analysis” before a final rule is published, adding that a timeline for completion of the economic analysis and any further action is also needed.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bill Donald of Montana says the members of Congress are standing up for U.S. cattlemen and women. “The proposed GIPSA rule puts big government smack dab in the middle of our business. It is the most pervasive invasion of federal government into the private marketplace I have ever witnessed,” he said.

National Pork Producers Council President Doug Wolf says the regulation as written “would be bad for producers, bad for consumers and bad for rural America” and would cost the U.S. pork industry nearly $400 million a year.

American Meat Institute president and CEO J. Patrick Boyle noted that an “almost unprecedented” third of House members signed the letter. “The sheer number of signatories on this letter is a testament to the growing concern on Capitol Hill about the proposed GIPSA rule. Congress is asking a fundamental and essential question: when will USDA tell us the price tag on this rule?”

New House Ag Committee Chair on GIPSA

The incoming Republican chairman of the House Agriculture Committee is very unhappy with the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule that he says will likely result in a “tremendously devastating” impact on the livestock sector.

During the special live 200th episode of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Cattlemen to Cattlemen program last week, Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said the proposed rule includes language that was defeated in the three previous farm bills.

“Congress wouldn’t give them authority. It’s a set of rules that they tried to go through the courts to force implementation and a half a dozen court cases rules against them. So, if you can’t get the elected officials to do it, and you can’t get the courts to implement it, then you use the rulemaking process and that’s where we are right now,” said Rep. Lucas. “We had a hearing back in July in the livestock subcommittee where, in a very bipartisan way, we attempted to get the administration and USDA’s attention: Don’t do this. They’ve gone forward anyway and they are continuing that process.” Lucas says the GIPSA rule is “contrary to the will of Congress, contrary to the opinion of the courts in past cases, and I just don’t think it’s good for us.”

Rep. Lucas also talks about the death tax proposal and plans for writing the 2012 Farm Bill.

Watch the episode here.

Last Chance for GIPSA Comments

Nearly 29,000 comments have been received so far on the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule and today is the deadline for those who will be affected by the rule to make comments.

As it says on the page to submit comments, this is “Your Voice in Federal Decision Making.” Since this is a regulatory action, it is not being voted on by Congress, so submitting comments is the only way to let regulators know the opinion of those who will be impacted by the rule. It’s also important that it really be YOUR voice, not a form letter. As Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently said about the comments on GIPSA, “There’s a difference between 16,000 unique comments and 16,000 comments of which a substantial number of them are basically form letters.”

It really couldn’t be easier to do. Just click here and type in your contact info and comments and it goes right to the Federal Register. You are able to view the comments that others have made on the rule and your comments will also be available for others to see.

What happens after today? The agency has a period of time to evaluate the comments received and then decide whether the proposal will be withdrawn, amended or implemented as is. We’ll keep you posted.

Pork Producers Submit GIPSA Comments

With just days remaining before the comment period deadline, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) yesterday submitted its official comments on the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule.

NPPC comments say the USDA agency “lacked authority or exceeded it on certain provisions of a proposed rule on buying and selling hogs, failed to support the need for the regulation with evidence of problems in the pork industry and didn’t consider its own studies showing that restricting contracts could harm the industry.” An economic impact study by Informa Economics estimates that the cost to the pork industry alone would amount to $333 million per year, after an initial $69 million expense.

The pork producers call the regulation a “bureaucratic overreach” and point out that GIPSA lacks the authority to declare that no showing of injury to competition is necessary to establish a violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act. NPPC asked that GIPSA withdraw the portions of the proposed rule that will have an immediate and detrimental impact on the pork industry. It also requested a thorough analysis of the affect on the pork producers of any new regulation.

“As proposed, the GIPSA rule is bad for farmers and ranchers, bad for consumers and bad for rural America,” said NPPC President Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa. “We’d like the agency to rewrite the rule, sticking to the mandates Congress gave it in the 2008 Farm Bill.”

NCBA Submits Comments on GIPSA Rule

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) today submitted official comments on behalf of its membership to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) regarding its proposed rule on livestock and poultry marketing. Colin Woodall, NCBA vice president of government affairs, says the comments submitted to USDA represent a thorough review of the potential consequences the proposed rule will have on the U.S. beef cattle industry.

“This rule we think is government at its absolute worst,” Woodall says. “The liability changes in this rule are going to open up the cattle marketplace to trial attorneys and we’re going to have a situation where we have trial attorneys, the court system and USDA dictating what a fair price is for an animal and that’s just unacceptable.”

Listen to or download some GIPSA comments from Colin here: Colin Woodall

NCBA, along with other producer organizations that will be affected by the rule, recently released a economic impact study by Informa Economics which found that rule would result in ongoing direct and indirect costs to the livestock and poultry industries – eventually borne by producers and consumers – of more than $1.64 billion, including nearly $880 million to the beef industry. (Read report here)

Listen to Rob Murphy with Informa explain the results of the study: Informa GIPSA Study

According to NCBA, provisions in the proposed rule causing the most concern for cattlemen and women include: eliminating the requirement that a plaintiff establish injury to competition in order to prove a claim under Section 202 of the PSA, purport to define “competitive injury” and the likelihood thereof, and declare that specific acts or practices are “unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive under Section 202; suggesting the factors which may establish an undue or unreasonable preference under Section 202(b) of the PSA; prohibiting sales of livestock by a packer to another packer or its affiliates; and requiring the production and publication of all cattle marketing and production contracts.

The comment period for the proposed rule ends November 22. Over 24,000 comments have been submitted so far and it is very easy to do – just click here and type in your contact info and comments and it goes right to the Federal Register.

Ethics Group Questions GIPSA Boss Conflict

A government ethics watchdog group thinks it might be a conflict of interest for a trial lawyer known for suing meat and poultry companies to be in charge of making new rules for regulating that industry.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) this week sent a letter to USDA’s general counsel expressing concerns about J. Dudley Butler’s potential ethical conflict as administrator of USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

“Mr. Butler stands to benefit financially once he leaves the government by exploiting a loophole he helped create,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Whether or not this meets the legal standard of a conflict of interest, it seems wrong. The Department of Agriculture should bar Mr. Butler from continued work on these regulations and the department should consider reissuing them for further public comment.” Sloan said in the letter Butler should be disqualified from working on the regulations based on avoiding even the “appearance of any conflict or impropriety” based on his “actions prior to becoming administrator of GIPSA.”

CREW even suggests that “given the controversy” reissuing the proposed GIPSA rule would serve to “remove any taint.”

CREW is a non-profit organization “dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials — regardless of party affiliation — who sacrifice the common good to special interests.”

Vilsack Non-Comments on GIPSA at NAFB

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked three times about some aspect of the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule during a press conference last week at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting in Kansas City, and each time he said he could not comment specifically about the proposed rule during the comment period.

But, he did make some remarks related to the proposed rule. Ron Hays of Oklahoma asked if there was a plan for evaluating the large number of comments being made on the issue – over 16,000 so far. Vilsack said that has not been discussed yet. “I didn’t think it was appropriate to have that conversation until the comment period was concluded so we know what the universe is and we can do an evaluation of the nature of the comments,” he said. “There’s a difference between 16,000 unique comments and 16,000 comments of which a substantial number of them are basically form letters.”

In response to studies that have been released showing a significant negative economic impact if the rule is implemented, Vilsack again said he couldn’t comment, but expressed concern about the declining numbers of farmers and ranchers in the country. “In 1980, we had 660,000 pork producers. Today we have 71,000 – about a 90 percent reduction in pork producers. That same period we had 1.5 million cattle producers, today we have 950,00 – so we lost about a third. Ten years ago, we had 110,000 dairy producers – today we have about 60,000,” said Vilsack. “Is everybody satisfied with those trends?” With less than one percent of the population on the farm, Vilsack says if that trend continues, “Who are you all going to be broadcasting to?”

The secretary says USDA has made the studies required for proposing the rule and he doesn’t want to make specific comments about anything until after the comment period ends on November 22.

Listen to or download Vilsack’s GIPSA comments here: Vilsack GIPSA

NAFB Convention Photo Album

Informa GIPSA Rule Study Results

This morning at the NAFB convention a press conference was held the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the National Turkey Federation (NTF) and the National Meat Association (NMA) to release the results of an economic analysis of USDA’s proposed livestock and poultry marketing regulation – the so-called GIPSA rule. I’ve posted the audio of the remarks from the presenters below. There is a lot of information in the report. Some key points include their finding that if the rule is imposed as proposed we would see an annual drop in gross domestic product of as much as $1.56 billion, a loos of more than 22,000 jobs and an annual loss of $359 million in tax revenues.

Panelists included Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics, who moderated the event; Rob Murphy, senior vice president of Informa Economics; Jim Maxey, a long-time NMA member and past chairman of the board; Bill Donald, Montana rancher and NCBA president-elect; Doug Wolf, Wisconsin pork producer and NPPC president-elect; and John Burkel, Minnesota turkey producer.

You can find the Informa report online.

Here’s where you can listen to or download the press conference audio: Informa GIPSA Rule Press Conference

NAFB Convention Photo Album