GIPSA rule delayed again

It was recently announced that the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is delaying the effective date of its interim final rule an additional six months to Oct. 19, 2017.

This was viewed as a positive step in the right direction according to many livestock groups.

“This is another step toward common sense and away from counterproductive government intrusion in the free market,” said Craig Uden, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president. “That said, while a delay is welcome, ultimately this rule should be killed and American cattle producers should be free to market our beef without the threat of government-sanctioned frivolous lawsuits.”

Two proposed rules and one interim final rule came out on Dec. 20, 2016, one month before the end of the Obama Administration. The interim final rule regarding the scope of the Packers and Stockyards Act and the proposed rule regarding undue preference and unjust treatment have a direct negative impact on the cattle industry.

Current systems that allow producers to market their cattle as they see fit reward them for producing the higher-quality beef that consumers demand. Under the interim final rule, USDA or a producer no longer needs to prove true economic harm. Instead, one only needs to say that he or she was treated “unfairly” to file a damaging lawsuit that could discourage cattlemen from continuing to invest in improving the quality of beef being produced.

“Trial lawyers are salivating at the prospect of this rule becoming the law of the land,” Uden said. “If this rule isn’t killed once and for all, cattle producers will lose nearly all incentive to invest in the production of higher-quality beef. That would mean less revenue for producers and lower quality for consumers. That’s a lose-lose proposition and exactly why the rule needs to not only be delayed — it needs to be killed outright.”

The delay will allow for more time to comment on the issue, which is a positive thing, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“It is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to the Agriculture Department’s Farmer Fair Practices Rules does not work across the board for all livestock sectors. The announced delay in the rules’ effective date until October will give farmers and ranchers additional time to comment on this important issue,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president. “We support preserving the contract and marketing arrangements that are working for the beef and pork sectors, and we will reinforce that point during the comment period. There is still vast room for improvement, however, in efforts to ensure a level playing field for poultry farmers. We will continue to emphasize the need to seek additional safeguards in the poultry sector to better protect individual farmers from discriminatory treatment, without disrupting the business practices that are working in the beef and pork sectors.”

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