On June 22, USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) published its proposed plan to overhaul livestock marketing. The rule (www.gipsa.usda.gov) has a 60-day comment period that expires on Aug. 23.
Leading U.S. livestock groups requested that GIPSA Administrator J. Dudley Butler extend the comment period to 120 days. But, in a July 8 letter to National Meat Association CEO Barry Carpenter, Butler said GIPSA doesn’t plan to do so.
“If granted, such an extension of the public comment period would unduly delay implementation of the specific reforms mandated by Congress in the 2008 farm bill,” he said.
But what’s the rush? Certainly a rule that stands to upend the value-based marketing inroads the industry has built and utilized to better serve consumer demand deserves careful and thorough study.
“No matter where you stand on the issue, everyone would benefit from additional time to analyze and provide feedback on this extremely complex rule,” says Collin Woodall, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“Marketing agreements have been the foundation for producer financing and producer profitability for more than 60% of beef marketed. Without these agreements, all cattle could be valued on the average, regardless of quality, resulting in a generic market and generic product. History has proven that generic products do not meet consumer demand. Without consumer demand, prices to producers fall,” he says.
Meanwhile, Butler hit a buzzsaw when he went before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry in mid July. The hearing was to review livestock and related USDA programs in advance of the 2012 farm bill, but starting with Chairman David Scott (D-GA) and moving on from there, members roasted USDA officials.
According to Ron Hays, Radio Oklahoma Network, Scott “lambasted the administration for drafting these rules as they claimed they were implementing the 2008 farm bill, when in fact many of the controversial parts of the GIPSA rule were discussed by the House Ag Committee during the writing of the bill and rejected as bad policy.”
Members also expressed outrage over the fast-tracking of the rule, indicating that members on both sides of the aisle want an extension to 120 days to further digest what all these rules may mean to livestock producers, Hays says.
Meanwhile, Phil Brasher of the Des Moines Register blogged that “Walter Minnick of Iowa called the regulations ‘silly.’ Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) said the rules would be a ‘lawyers’ field day.’ And, the chairman of the full committee, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) worried that the rules would make it harder to continue branded marketing arrangements between farmers and processors.”