By RHEA LANDHOLM
Family farmers and ranchers have waited years for the USDA to institute basic fairness protections in the poultry and livestock industries.
However, last week, officials announced a rollback of two rules of the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA); decided not to move forward with an interim final rule of the Farmer Fair Practices; and said they will take no further action on a proposed regulation of the Farmer Fair Practices Rule.
Poultry and livestock production is an important source of jobs and income for many in rural communities. A healthy and stable community depends not on the number of livestock produced, but on the number of livestock producers living and working there.
The rolled back rules would have made the marketplace more friendly to family farmers and ranchers, allowing for more small businesses in our communities.
The Center for Rural Affairs works hard for genuine opportunity for family farms and ranches, beginning with our organization’s inception in 1973.
In 1997, we had a seat in Washington when our executive director was nominated to the National Commission on Small Farms. Together, members produced a report, “A Time to Act,” calling for livestock market reforms.
Two years later, we asked the agriculture secretary to utilize his authority and write a rule providing a definition for what constitutes an “undue or unreasonable preference” as prohibited by the Packers and Stockyards Act. He declined to act.
During both the 2002 and 2008 farm bill debates, the Center called for the inclusion of a livestock market competition title. In 2008, those efforts were rewarded with a provision. As a result, USDA published a proposed rule in 2010 after hearing concerns raised by family farmers and ranchers across the country regarding fair livestock and poultry markets. Last October, the rule was submitted to the White House.
Last week, this rule was shut down, alongside two GIPSA rules.
Farmers, ranchers, and consumers would have benefited from the competitive, transparent markets these rules would help protect. Our fight for fairness has not ended. Call your lawmakers and urge them to reconsider.
The Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World.