Congress voted earlier this month on a $19.8-billion, ag spending bill that includes language blocking USDA from implementing controversial reforms to livestock and poultry marketing.

The so-called GIPSA Rule, which was proposed last year by the USDA's Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyard's Administration (GIPSA), would have wreaked havoc on the U.S. cattle industry causing livestock producers to lose an estimated $169 million, says Colin Woodall, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) vice president of government affairs. He explains Congress barred USDA from conducting any further work this year on sections of the rule not yet finalized.

"We stand firm behind those members of Congress who were willing to listen and understand the concerns of cattlemen, leading trade organizations, economists, consumers and others. This was a vote in favor of innovative family-owned farms and ranches," Woodall says.

The ag spending bill will halt USDA from working this year on sections of the rule mandated by Congress during the 2008 Farm Bill related to competitive injury, unfair practices and undue preference. This part of the proposed rule caused the most concern for cattlemen and women like Robbie LeValley, a Colorado cow-calf producer and co-owner of Homestead Meats.

"The vague definitions would open the door to an increased number of lawsuits because mere accusations, without economic proof, would suffice for USDA or an individual to bring a lawsuit against a buyer. This would have been a trial lawyer's bonanza," LeValley says. "I am relieved that USDA will not move forward with this rule as originally written. Congress not only heard us but they also understood the far reaching unintended consequences this rule would have created."