Calling it a “farmer and rancher bill of rights” National Farmers Union delegates adopted a special order of business at its 109th annual convention in San Antonio, Texas, supporting the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule.

“The proposed GIPSA rule is a Farmer and Rancher Bill of Rights,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “We have seen a rapid decline in the number of beef and hog operations in the United States. Since 1980, more than 500,000 beef cattle operations have been lost. During that same period, we have seen a 10-fold decline in the number of hog operations, from 660,000 to 67,000. Clearly something must be done, and the proposed rule is a big step in the right direction.”

It’s worth noting that the USDA pork production numbers count every site that has even one hog on it.

NFU’s special order of business also urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to implement the proposed GIPSA rule as soon as possible.

In contrast, pork producer delegates to the National Pork Industry Forum, held earlier this month do not approve of the current GIPSA rule, citing that it over-reached the intent that Congress outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill  regarding production and marketing contract arrangements. The NPPC delegates passed two resolutions opposing the proposed GIPSA rule and have asked USDA to conduct a thorough economic analysis across multiple sectors of the U.S. agriculture industry. Several lawmakers have expressed support of this action as well.

“Secretary Vilsack should push forward with full implementation of the GIPSA rule to return protections to producers from the misuse of market power and consolidation of the beef, pork and poultry industries,” said Johnson. “USDA and U.S. Departments of Justice held five listening sessions across the country in 2010 to examine the issues of concentration and competition in agriculture. Now is the time to act on those findings.”

USDA is currently reviewing more than 60,000 comments it received during that extended comment period, of which more than 16,000 came from the U.S. pork industry.

NFU’s special order of business adopted by the delegates also offered some changes to the GIPSA rule, including a provision that would require USDA to calculate the percent of the market held by the top four companies in the major meat sectors. The special order of business also called on USDA to recognize that many livestock buyers have multiple independent livestock operator clients and should be treated differently than the buyers representing major packers.

“The final rule would affect the production and marketing side of pork production,” notes Mark Legan, an Indiana pork producer and NPPC board member. The concern is that it would takeaway or limit business arrangements currently commonplace in the U.S. pork industry, add costs and reduce long-term opportunities. Many also believe that it would actually drive the industry to greater vertical integration.

There is no specific timeline identified for USDA to release its final GIPSA rule, but some industry watchers suggest that late summer is likely.

Source: National Farmers Union