One small victory for small-scale agriculture has been achieved on the legal front. Two weeks ago, the Senate Appropriations Committee did not include language previously proposed in the House of Representatives’ 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would prevent the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from enacting a competition rule known as the GIPSA rule. The Senate version of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill would allow GIPSA to implement the rule. The Senators also rejected a $150 million request from the Department of Homeland Security to build the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas, which would delay the Department’s plan to conduct foot-and-mouth disease research in the country.
Bill Bullard of R-CALF USA said that the Senate Appropriation Committee’s decisions were “a huge relief for our nation’s livestock producers” but added that the bill still needs to be approved by the full Senate. “We now need to preserve the Committee’s action on the Senate floor when the 2012 Appropriations Bill is brought to a vote in the 100-member Senate.” Bullard said that this bill will allow GIPSA to crack down on monopolistic meatpackers who are involved in unfair practices and forcing small farms and ranchers out of business.
The country’s concentrated meatpackers are opposed to the bill since it will prevent them from expanding their control over the livestock supply chain through vertical integration. Bill Slovek of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association said the rule will hurt ranchers. “We think it’ll take away a lot of the different options we have to market our cattle,” he said. “When you’ve got something to sell, the more alternatives to market it you have, the better.”
The proposed GIPSA rule is intended to clarify behavior that violates the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 and make possible more efficient and effective enforcement by GIPSA. The rule would also clarify conditions for compliance with the P&S Act and allow for a fairer and more competitive market. The P&S Act promotes fair competition, provides payment protection, and works to prevent deceptive and fraudulent practices in the livestock and poultry industries. The current GIPSA rule has its roots in the 2008 Farm Bill, which directed the USDA to write the regulation. If the House and Senate pass bills with different language about GIPSA, then the differences between the two bills would have to be settled in a conference committee between the two houses, unless one decides to adopt the other’s version of the bill.
What can you do to ensure that the GIPSA rule will be preserved in the final farm bill? Call or write to your local senators and representatives and ask them to support the Senate’s version of the bill. The U.S. Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. If you wish to send them mail, then send it to the following address listed on the Senate’s web page:
Office of Senator (Name)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Alternately, you may also send your Senator an e-mail. This page lists all the different Senators’ web pages, where you can find their contact information. It is important to contact your Senators to ask them to support the GIPSA rule, in order to allow for a healthier and more competitive livestock market.