As I've already mentioned we covered a number of topics while in Washington D.C. My plan is to present a number of those issues to you while they're still fresh in my mind.
Up first is the proposed GIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration) Rule, which USDA is currently working on.
The 2008 Farm Bill required re-writing and clarification of certain aspects of the GIPSA Rule, and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) was the entity in charge of this rule, so they got the task of re-writing it. The GIPSA website states the goal of the regulation is to level the playing field between packers, live poultry dealers, and swine contractors, and the nation's poultry growers and livestock producers.
The result of the USDA's first draft was varied and outspoken. During the public comment period, 60,000 comments were submitted, voicing everything from strong support to rigorous opposition of the rule. I attended one of a series of USDA/DOJ public workshops on the topic, where a number of panels comprised of members of the livestock industry spoke on the issue, and where producers from across the country spoke passionately for and against it based on the impact it would have on their operation and their neighbor's operations.
Right now everyone is waiting for the USDA to release the final rule after making changes based on the 60,000 public comments. The USDA has three choices of how they can proceed upon completing the writing phase. First, they can release a final rule, period, the end. Second, they can present a proposed final rule with an additional public comment period. Third they can submit a reproposal of the entire rule. They also have the option of doing a combination of the three. For example, they can choose specific parts to be released as final, and make others open for another public comment period.
Many of the congressional delegation are in opposition of continued funding of the rule, because they don't like the idea of the USDA being able to come out with a final rule without anyone getting any additional say in the matter, especially with this being such a sensitive issue. Without funding the rule would die where it is now until the next budgeting session (I think, until sometime in the next session).
Others are in support of keeping the bill fully funded until we see what the final rule, or proposed rule is, then taking action if there is anything they're in opposition of.
The argument with that is if the rule is passed without additional comment, the only way to make changes is through a challenge or new legislation (and perhaps others), all of which can take several years. During that entire time the rule would stand as released.
You can read an outline of the original proposed rule here.
This is an important issue to all members of the livestock industry because it is a rule designed to level the marketing playing, and will have impacts (both good and bad) on all sectors . I encourage you to read up on it, and stay updated on it.
We were able to speak with USDA GIPSA Administrator Dudley Butler on the issue while in D.C., and he said, "If both sides come out a little mad and a little happy, I think will have done a good job."