March 2, 2011
On February 28, 2011, briefings on the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule were held in both the Senate and House. Chandler Goule of the National Farmers Union moderated a panel of producers in favor of the rule: Mike Weaver, a contract poultry producer in West Virginia for Pilgrim’s Pride; Dan Hodges, a Berkshire hog producer from Nebraska; and Judy McCullom, a cow-calf operator from Wyoming.
Each of the three described the current state of their segment of industry, and discussed the potential implications of the rule. Contract poultry production, especially, would benefit because the industry is more dependent on contract production than the hog or cattle industry. Poultry growers often fall victim to threats, intimidation, and retaliation by companies if they voice complaints. Growers can be subject to contract termination without notice, and have no recourse if the company doesn’t deliver chicks or feed. The proposed rule would address these issues and help reduce market manipulation in all areas.
The panel also pointed out that many of the so-called “producer” organizations have packers and processors on their boards, so opposition by groups like National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is neither particularly surprising or very representative of producer interests.
The primary questions from congressional staff in attendance addressed a fear of increased litigation resulting from the rule; the panel responded that the rule should, in fact, reduce litigation because it will clarify and better define implementing regulations, currently open to widely varying interpretations and left for courts to try to decide.