Senator Tom Harkin sent a bipartisan letter to Senator Saxby Chambliss, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, calling for a hearing on USDA's failure to enforce the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration Act.

A report issued Wednesday by USDA's Inspector General found that USDA hasn’t filed a single formal complaint for anti-competitive behavior in the meat or poultry industry. In addition, the audit found that the Packers and Stockyards Program has rarely conducted a large investigation or focused on a major packing firm, and that senior USDA officials prevented anti-competitive investigations from being referred to department lawyers, capable of filing complaints or referring cases to the Justice Department for further action.

Harkin says GIPSA headquarters failed to respond to requests for guidance or implement policy decisions regarding issues raised by GIPSA staff administering the Packers and Stockyards program. Of the 64 pending unresolved policy decisions, 55 were initiated by program staff prior to 2004

"The Inspector General's findings are very serious, and we need to get to the bottom of this," says Harkin. "I'm concerned not only by GIPSA's performance but other high ranking officials whose job it was to oversee that agency. Our Committee should examine these issues to find out more about how this situation developed and about what needs to be done to correct it. America's livestock and poultry producers deserve to know why USDA failed to enforce laws specifically designed to protect them."

To view the final report, go to http://www.usda.gov/oig/rptsauditsmulti.htm and click on the January 18, 2006 audit report.

USDA, Wisconsin Ag Connection, Greeley Tribune