Farmers and ranchers applauded when the Obama campaign pledged to restore open and competitive markets and fair contracts for livestock and poultry producers and again when last year, the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) issued a strong rule protecting farmers and ranchers from some of the the worst practices. The administration, however, has yet to issue a final rule and opposition from big packers and processsors seems to have stalled the process.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition along with other farm and ranch organizations that collectively represent thousands of family farmers and ranchers have organized a weeklong call-in campaign to tell President Obama that the GIPSA rule should be issued now.
Three years ago, Congress directed USDA to define and enforce key provisions in the Packers and Stockyards Act outlawing price discrimination against small and mid-sized farmers and other unfair practices. One year ago, the Grain Inspection and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) issued a proposed rule that would reign in some of the worst practices of mega packers and processors. “The push back from the corporate packers and processors who profit from the status quo has been fierce, ” said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC’s policy director.
“Price manipulation, price discrimination and unjust and one-sided contracts have all been very good for their bottom lines.”
Last week, at the behest of the meat and poultry industry, the House passed an agricultural appropriations bill with a rider denying GIPSA any funds to complete their rulemaking process. The bill now moves on to the Senate. “We’re pleased that the President and USDA Secretary Vilsack have criticized the appropriations rider and defended the GIPSA proposed rule,” said Hoefner, “ but now is the time for USDA to get the final rule out the door and working to provide farmers and ranchers with clear protections and fairer prices under the Packers & Stockyards Act.”