NSAC's Blog

Senators Harkin and Johnson Stand Up for Fair Competition

October 26, 2011

On Thursday, October 20 , Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) presented floor statements in support of the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) livestock competition rule.  Earlier in the Senate floor debate, negative remarks made against the rule were made by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS).

The Agricultural Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 is currently working its way through Senate floor action, with final passage expected to occur on or about November 1.  We issued a full rundown on the measure and the voting to date earlier.

No action will be taken in the Senate bill with respect to the GIPSA rule.  Earlier this year, the House approved its version of the Agricultural Appropriations measure and included in it a rider that would prohibit USDA from issuing the final rule.

NSAC strongly supports the rule and has joined with our members and with other groups in encouraging its immediate finalization.  We also strongly oppose the House rider and oppose its inclusion in the final appropriations bill.  We applaud Senators Harkin and Johnson for standing up for fair competition!

Senator Johnson stated on the floor:  “Independent farmers and ranchers must have an opportunity to leverage a decent price for their products.  Market consolidation has done a severe disservice to our producers, and it is critically important that we maintain market access and price discovery options for independent farmers and ranchers.  I am also fully supportive of GIPSA’s authority to continue the rulemaking process as directed in the 2008 Farm Bill.  The proposed rule takes an important first step toward finally enabling livestock producers to get a fair shake in the marketplace.”

He also brought up how a letter written by 190 organizations from across the country was recently sent to Congress outlining the important protections provided for in the proposed rule and urging Congress to allow the rulemaking process to continue.

Senator Harkin pointedly noted that “contrary to some of the arguments that are being made, the topics and subject matter covered in the proposed rule, and which therefore likely would be encompassed in the final rule, are entirely consistent with the rulemaking process that the 2008 farm bill directed the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct and with the authority provided by the Packers and Stockyards Act.”

He went on to explain how “the proposed rule would clarify what many believe to be a misinterpretation of the act by some courts that have held that an individual grower or producer cannot succeed on a claim for harm suffered from a violation of the act without an additional showing of harm to competition in the broader market.”  This is simply next to impossible for a grower to do.  He refuted the argument that  the proposed rule exceeds the authority of the USDA by stating the claims are “plainly unfounded.”

Harkin closed his remarks by responding to the studies claiming that the rule would be very costly and eliminate jobs, saying that they’re founded on misreading of the intent of the proposed rule and are extreme predictions of the effects of a rule that is designed to simply ensure fair and nondiscriminatory treatment of livestock and poultry producers and growers in the market.

The two floor statements can be found here.

Categories: Budget and Appropriations, Competition & Anti-trust

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