“We definitely support premiums (for high-quality cattle). That will play heavy on my mind,” says Under Secretary of Agriculture Edward Avalos, discussing the controversial rule changes to the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA).

Avalos, who oversees USDA marketing and regulatory programs, including GIPSA, tells BEEF it may be late fall before potential changes to GIPSA rules are made following extensive review of tens of thousands of public comments on the GIPSA proposals that angered many last year.

He spoke with BEEF last Saturday during the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association 134th annual convention in San Antonio. Avalos said that once reviewed, there will be a clearing process at USDA and through the Office of Management and Budget.

“I would say it will be late fall, and that’s just a guess,” says Avalos regarding when the final GIPSA ruling may be announced. “We’re in the process of reviewing and categorizing all the comments. Once we do that, our economist and his team will develop a cost-benefit analysis.”

GIPSA hearings fueled much criticism from many groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Many fear the disruption of value-added calf programs that promote higher quality cattle.

Some believe GIPSA proposals requiring meat processors to report every value-added transaction or face legal action would force some packers to forego such producer programs, pay a single price for cattle and pocket premiums themselves.

Avalos says the status of value-added programs would be highly reviewed by USDA before a final ruling is made. “I have a lot of friends who work very hard to develop a high-quality animal with high demand,” Avalos says. “From what I can see, we’re not looking to impact that.

“I need to make it crystal clear – we have a lot of people for the rules as they are proposed, a lot of people against the rules as they are proposed, and a lot of people who like parts of the rules but not other parts. We’re going to take all these comments very serious.”

He says he wasn’t surprised at the mass number of comments. “I wasn’t shocked at all. People resist change. People worry about change. I understand that,” he says.

However, the current GIPSA rules are virtually the same as they’ve been since about 1930 or longer “and we were criticized by the General Accounting Office for not making changes that are current for the industry,” he adds.