No livestock marketing regs in ag appropriations billFor the first time in years, the agriculture appropriations bill does not contain a provision prohibiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration from issuing certain regulations to ensure fairness in the marketing of livestock and poultry.
By: By Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek
WASHINGTON — For the first time in years, the agriculture appropriations bill does not contain a provision prohibiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration from issuing certain regulations to ensure fairness in the marketing of livestock and poultry.
The provision was first included in the 2008 farm bill, but appropriators have regularly refused to allow USDA to implement the regulations, which would give small livestock and poultry producers more power in the marketplace.
The ban became a public controversy after TV comedian John Oliver took up the cause. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, a vigorous advocate for small poultry farmers, and singer Willie Nelson wrote in The Washington Post on July 7 “The powerful meat lobby has pressured Congress year after year to block funding to enforce these rules.”
But the appropriators did not include the ban in the fiscal year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill that the House Appropriations Committee passed on July 8.
National Chicken Council President Mike Brown said in a statement on July 8 “The 2008 farm bill instructed GIPSA to provide guidance in five limited areas.
“GIPSA, under the direction of a trial lawyer with a history of suing poultry companies (a reference to former GIPSA Administrator J. Dudley Butler), responded by proposing wide-ranging and stifling rules that would have strayed so far afield from Congress’s intent that they exceeded GIPSA’s statutory authority and threatened to upend the entire family farming structure of the broiler chicken industry and that of livestock marketing practices,” Brown said.
Brown noted that after Congress ordered USDA not to implement the regulations in the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill, USDA rescinded the regulations.
“We all want our farmers to strive and to prosper,” Brown concluded. “The ultimate success of the chicken company, and the entire industry, depends on it. No matter what musicians, comedians, and representatives with no chicken farmers in their districts are saying.”
“It’s wonderful that after all of these years, key regulations overseen by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration will finally be funded,” National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said in a news release.
“Funding these protections will ensure adequate notice of termination of contract and recourse from retaliation and is essential to ensuring farmers and growers have fair and equitable conditions in a marketplace characterized by increased concentration,” Johnson said.
There is still a long road to implementation of the provisions, however. The situation in Congress is so contentious that it is unclear whether the agriculture bill will be considered on the House floor. If Congress has to pass an omnibus appropriations bill covers all or many agencies, there is also the possibility that the ban could be put back in.