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Published May 30, 2011, 03:20 PM

GIPSA stays on track

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will not withdraw the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule regarding the marketing of livestock and poultry, even though a bipartisan group of 147 House members wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that it be rewritten, a USDA spokesman has told Agweek.

By: Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will not withdraw the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule regarding the marketing of livestock and poultry, even though a bipartisan group of 147 House members wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that it be rewritten, a USDA spokesman has told Agweek.

“Congress directed USDA to develop new GIPSA rules to promote marketplace competition in the 2008 farm bill. After issuing the proposed rule in 2010, USDA received over 60,000 comments and the agency is now working to modify and improve the rule based on these comments,” the spokesman said in an email May 19.

And, although the May 18 congressional letter to Vilsack also asked for a timeline on the proposal, a USDA source said that request is premature.

“It is still too early in the process to be able to predict a specific timeline or exactly what the final product will look like,” Agweek was told. “Our focus is on getting the rule done right, and make sure that comments are addressed appropriately.”

Industry regulation

In a reflection of concern among some livestock producers, the 2008 farm bill directed GIPSA to take a hard look at whether its regulation of the livestock and poultry marketplace was working. On June 22, GIPSA published a proposed rule regarding unfair, deceptive and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry industries. That rule has divided livestock growers over whether it would create a fairer marketplace in which smaller producers would have a more equal position or whether it would create chaos in the industry and make certain marketing practices illegal or unworkable.

Reacting to the firestorm of controversy, USDA extended a comment period. An economic team led by USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber is analyzing the modified rule, the source said, and is in the beginning stages of a cost-benefit analysis, which will be followed by departmental and Office of Management and Budget clearance.

Withdraw, repropose

In their letter, House members led by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., said they appreciated that USDA was analyzing the 60,000 comments and analyzing the economic benefits, but said that withdrawing the rule and reproposing it “would allow stakeholders the opportunity they deserve to comment on what we hope will be substantial changes to the proposal more consistent with the intent of Congress outlined in the 2008 farm bill.”

Several of the changes USDA has proposed, including those related to record-keeping and competitive injury, were rejected by Congress during the farm bill debate, the House members noted.

In a separate action, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee May 24 passed a bill that would stop the Agriculture Department from moving forward with the rule, but that bill would have to pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by President Obama with that provision.

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