USDA already received more than 60,000 comments regarding its proposed Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Act—or GIPSA rule-- as of the late November 2010 deadline. Of those, pork industry submitted approximately 16,000.

“They are reviewing those comments now, and they don’t have a timeline as to when the rule will be completed or even what it might look like,” said Mark Legan, National Pork Producers Council board of director and Indiana pork producer.  “We’ll be watching this and developing ‘what-if’ contingency plans as this could effect the production and marketing side of pork production.”

Most recently, producers attending the 2011 National Pork Industry Forum held earlier this month sent a letter to USDA emphasizing the need for a "thorough economic analysis." That would involve going beyond a cost/benefit review, and reach more broadly and deeply to analyze the financial impact that the proposed rule would have on all sectors of the food-animal production system, said Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics.

"The GIPSA rule is in 'remission' for now," said Doug Wolf, NPPC president and Wisconsin pork producer. "We're looking for an economic analysis." NPPC has submitted 60 pages of comment regarding an economic analysis of the rule.

The Senate Appropriations Committee agriculture subcommittee recently held a hearing on the fiscal 2012 USDA budget, and once again issues surrounding the proposed GIPSA rule regarding contract arrangements for the production, buying and selling of U.S. livestock surfaced.  

At the hearing, Agriculture Seceretary Tom Vilsack was questioned about USDA’s plans for conducting an economic analysis of its proposed GIPSA rule and about whether the agency would allow public comments on the analysis. While Vilsack said his department would conduct a cost-benefit analysis, he dodged the public comment question, reports NPPC.

Likewise, at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s agriculture subcommittee, USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward Avalos would not respond directly to bipartisan requests that the GIPSA rule analysis be open to public comments.

NPPC has urged USDA to conduct an examination of the rule that considers its economy-wide impact and to open the analysis to public scrutiny. Several congressmen have supported the need for this action. It is likely that USDA will conduct some type of economic analysis, but given the extensive comment period allowed last year, including several open forum sessions held throughout the country, another round of comments may not be allowed.   

UDSA is reviewing the comments received during last year's public comment period. While there is no solid timeline as to when USDA will produce a final GIPSA bill, the working consensus is that action could occur sometime in late summer.

Depending on what happens with the final GIPSA rule, "it will certainly change the way we (the pork industry) do business," said Neil Dierks, NPPC chief executive officer. "It won't put any one person out of business, but it will take opportunities away."