Congress voted today, Nov. 17, 2011, on a $19.8 billion 2012 agricultural spending bill that includes language blocking the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing controversial reforms to livestock and poultry marketing. The so-called GIPSA rule, proposed last year by the USDA's Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyard's Administration, would have wreaked havoc on the U.S. cattle industry causing livestock producers to lose an estimated $169 million, according to National Cattlemen's Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Colin Woodall. He said Congress barred USDA from conducting any further work this year on sections of the rule not yet finalized.
"We stand firm behind those members of Congress who were willing to listen and understand the concerns of cattlemen, leading trade organizations, economists, consumers and others. This was a vote in favor of innovative family-owned farms and ranches," said Woodall.
The agricultural appropriations bill is part of a $1.04 trillion bill adopted by both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. The agricultural spending bill will halt USDA from working this year on sections of the rule mandated by Congress during the 2008 Farm Bill related to competitive injury, unfair practices and undue preference. This part of the proposed rule caused the most concern for cattlemen and women like Robbie LeValley, a Colorado cow-calf producer and co-owner of Homestead Meats.
"The vague definitions would open the door to an increased number of lawsuits because mere accusations, without economic proof, would suffice for USDA or an individual to bring a lawsuit against a buyer. This would have been a trial lawyer's bonanza," said LeValley. "I am relieved that USDA will not move forward with this rule as originally written. Congress not only heard us but they also understood the far reaching unintended consequences this rule would have created."Woodall said NCBA is committed to working with USDA to assist in providing clarity and clear definition in future rulemaking in order to prevent unintended consequences from putting family-owned farmers and ranchers, like LeValley, out of business.