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Published June 21, 2011, 04:08 PM

Who did NCBA actually corner?

MEADOW, S.D. — We were angered to see recent headline of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association claiming “147 members of Congress corner USDA on proposed GIPSA rule.” The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association questions the accuracy of many of the statements by NCBA President Bill Donald and remains curious as to what NCBA actually cornered.

By: Shane Kolb,

MEADOW, S.D. — We were angered to see recent headline of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association claiming “147 members of Congress corner USDA on proposed GIPSA rule.” The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association questions the accuracy of many of the statements by NCBA President Bill Donald and remains curious as to what NCBA actually cornered.

The NCBA press release apparently was referring to a “dear colleague” letter circulated by Reps. Jim Costa, D-Calif., Reid Ribble, R-Wis., and Frank Lucas, R-Okla., in the U.S. House and signed by 144 other House members. That’s barely one-third of the 435 House members, and that portion of the pie doesn’t have any corners.

The letter seemingly was brought forward by the American Meat Institute and NCBA’s lobbyists in an attempt to derail the proposed new Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule — a rule that was ordered by Congress via the 2008 farm bill to clarify certain anticompetitive marketing practices currently used by the meatpacking industry. NCBA claims that it “stood up for U.S. cattlemen and women” when it initiated this letter.

Speaking for itself

The NCBA certainly doesn’t stand for me. In fact, NCBA’s statements fly in the face of the adamant support of the proposed GIPSA rule by the producer-members of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and 239 other producer organizations nationwide. NCBA speaks for its own membership which, by our estimates, is less than 5 percent all U.S. cattle producers and far from cornering anyone.

The purpose of NCBA’s letter to Congress was to request a new public comment period before the final GIPSA rules are published claiming that USDA should revise its proposed rule based on more public input.

I don’t buy it. When the proposed rules first were published in June 2010, USDA opened a 60-day period for public comment. After complaints from NCBA, AMI and their meatpacking friends, USDA extended the comment period an additional 90 days, resulting in more than 60,000 submitted comments from producers and organizations such as NCBA and AMI. During that time, USDA hosted a series of “listening sessions” across the country where hundreds of individuals and organizations were represented including NCBA, AMI and several meatpacking companies.

Fair market

It seems clear to me that NCBA, AMI and their meatpacker friends are not actually interested in a revision to these rules. They intend to kill the GIPSA rule because they have benefited from the lack of defined rules and regulations in the act for decades.

The intent of the proposed GIPSA rules is to bring about a transparent livestock market and hold meat packers accountable for their captive supplies, unfair trade actions, unprecedented market access and other market irregularities. If the meat packers truly are innocent of these accusations, then the transparency called for in the proposed rules should be the perfect opportunity to prove their claims that they aren’t doing anything wrong.

Maybe they actually cornered themselves.

Shane Kolb serves as the vice-president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. He works as a full-time brand inspector for the state of South Dakota and runs a family cow-calf operation near Meadow, S.D.

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