By Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (DTN) — The American Farm Bureau Federation is opposing a House proposal to block USDA from issuing a new livestock marketing rule to govern the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.
The Obama administration’s proposed rule has divided the livestock community, with smaller producers favoring it and bigger producers and processors opposing it. The administration has extended the comment period and agreed to conduct an economic analysis of its impact. House and Senate Agriculture Committee members also are largely opposed to USDA’s proposed rule, arguing it goes beyond the department’s mandate in the 2008 farm bill.
At a field hearing Tuesday in Lansing, Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he hopes USDA would allow more public comment on an economic analysis now being done on the rule.
“This is one of those where they went outside what we told them to do in the farm bill,” Roberts said.
The House Appropriations Committee funding for USDA has a provision for fiscal year 2012 that would stop USDA from spending any funding on the proposed rule. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, presented a letter from Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman at the committee meeting Tuesday over USDA’s budget. The letter states Farm Bureau would support her amendment to remove that language from the appropriations bill and allow USDA to move ahead with its rule.
“We oppose language to preclude USDA from reviewing the comments and completing their economic analysis and are strongly opposed to any action that would stop work on that rule,” Stallman wrote.
Kaptur presented her amendment at a House Appropriations Committee markup of the 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill late Tuesday. The committee approved the overall bill.
Kaptur told DTN she did not know exactly how she would proceed with her goal of allowing USDA to proceed with the rule.
The National Farmers Union and the National Family Farm Coalition also oppose the provision that would stop implementation. NFU President Roger Johnson issued a statement Tueday calling the House Appropriations action on GIPSA as among the “most egregious” proposals in the funding bill.
“Preventing the use of funds to protect farmers and ranchers from the abuses of packers and processors has little budgetary impact,” Johnson stated. “We appreciate the efforts of Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio to support farmers and ranchers by introducing an amendment to remove the language. Unfortunately, the language was included in the approved bill, which is a blatant attempt to advance a policy goal through appropriations, and I urge that funds for the enforcement of the GIPSA rule be reinstated in future versions of the agriculture appropriations bill.”
Farm Bureau said the Agriculture Department should have an opportunity to complete reviewing the 60,000 comments received and that it is “imperative” that USDA continue its economic analysis.
“Farm Bureau is in the unique position of representing every species impacted by this rule,” Stallman wrote. “We also have no affiliation with major packers, integrators or processors and therefore our only interest is the impact of this rule on farmers and ranchers.”
“Generally speaking,” Stallman wrote, “Farm Bureau’s philosophy supports a market environment where our farmers and ranchers can sell their product in a way that best fits with their individual operation and risk aversion level. Our policy clearly states that ‘We support efforts to ensure open markets to all producers.’”
Stallman added that Farm Bureau farmer and rancher members “have recognized the need for a referee in the marketplace,” and support GIPSA in that role. He also noted that Farm Bureau policy supports more vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws, including the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Lobbyists for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council, which have been critical of the rule, told reporters after the markup that they knew nothing of the Farm Bureau letter until Kaptur read sections of it at the markup.
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.
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