Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS), wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack asking him to withdraw the GIPSA livestock procurement rule. His primary concern centers on USDA’s failure to conduct an economic analysis of the proposed rule, and other procedural/administrative problems.
Interestingly, this week I spoke to a cattleman just returned from a state cattlemen’s trip to Washington who had similar concerns. USDA kept telling the visiting cattlemen that an economic analysis had been done; yet, the USDA economists they spoke with continually raised their own concerns about the economic impact of the proposed rule on the industry.
Admittedly, I’m a little confused on the economic analysis issue; USDA repeatedly has said it’s been done, but it hasn’t been made available for review. Many people want to study the economic analysis, based on GIPSA’s in-depth and recent analysis of alternative marketing arrangements (AMA), which concluded that restrictions of AMAs would negatively impact producers and the industry. Given that these restrictions are at the very heart of the GIPSA rule, many are wondering how opposite conclusions could be reached by USDA.
Anyone who’s followed this issue understands that Moran’s letter isn’t expected to have any impact on a USDA that seems fully committed to the GIPSA rule. At the same time, however, Congress seems to be growing more hostile to the idea, largely due to its perception that USDA overstepped its authority by including proposals in the rule that, in fact, had been voted on and defeated during the farm bill debate.
As frustrated as I get when Congress creates legislation on issues of which they seemingly have no understanding, the recent trend of governmental departments essentially creating legislation on their own is truly disturbing. We’ve seen similar attempts by the Environmental Protection Agency and others to advance specific agendas.
The frustration of cattlemen is understandable; while there’s certainly no guarantee that an elected official will hold your views, you at least have some recourse when they when act against your best interest – you can vote them out of office. But, anyone who’s dealt with a bureaucracy knows that you not only have no influence with bureaucrats but expressing disagreement can often result in a lot more pain and suffering. Power in and of itself can be a dangerous thing, but power without accountability certainly is.
I certainly believe the GIPSA rule is ill-conceived and would be harmful to our industry. Yet, I can’t believe that value-based marketing and all the AMAs that have evolved to reduce producer risk or improve quality will be eliminated. More concerning to me has been the process where an agency is allowed to override congressional intentions.
No one – not the advocates or opponents of the GIPSA rule – believe that the last farm bill created the path for this rule. If agenda-driven agencies can create activist legislation (rules) of this magnitude, then citizens have lost all control. The certain legal battles that are to follow if this GIPSA rule continues will clarify and reshape it, but ultimately it is Congress that will have to assert itself.
If governmental control of the industry’s marketing system is indeed warranted, it should be the legislature that does it, not some government agency. As one individual who has built his business around differentiating his product told me, “If I’m going to be voted out of business, I at least want the pleasure of being able to vote against the person who did it to me.” He won’t have that opportunity here and that is wrong.