Monday, November 15, 2010

USDA Puts Fox in Charge of Guarding the Hen House

Via former Congressman Bob Barr and sitting Congressman Collin Peterson, I’ve learned about some troubling new regulations on the livestock industry proposed by the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). GIPSA may not be as sexy a regulator as PCAOB or NHTSA, but this is one more example of obscure regulatory agencies run amok. What makes this particular proposal especially problematic is that the GIPSA Administrator, a former trial lawyer named J. Dudley Butler who made his bones suing poultry producers, seems to have intentionally introduced a level of vagueness into the rule that, in his own words, makes it a “plaintiff lawyer’s dream.” Under the terms of the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress instructed GIPSA to promulgate new rules governing the contractual arrangements between cattle and poultry producers on the one hand and stockyards and slaughterhouses on the other, in order to “help ensure fair trade and competition in the livestock and poultry industries.”  However, according to a letter from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, which was signed by 114 other members of Congress (for a total of 68 Republicans and 47 Democrats), the proposal strays “far beyond Congress’ intent in the Farm Bill” and “would precipitate major changes in livestock and poultry marketing”.  In addition,  the “analysis contained in the proposed rule fails to demonstrate the need for the rule”...more

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