U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA

Ag group sues USDA over GIPSA rule

Legislative Watch: Ag group files suit over GIPSA; USDA withdrawing organic livestock rule; government staying open for now; tax bill moves on; farm bill website setup.

USDA is being sued by the Organization for Competitive Markets for withdrawing the “Farmer Fair Practices Rule” (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rule). The lawsuit according to the OCM seeks to reinstate the rules which “prohibit major meat and poultry producers who contract with farmers from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices.”

The OCM says, “The Trump administration has eliminated rules designed to level the playing field for family farms and has instead given large multinational corporations the upper hand. In doing so, Secretary of Agriculture Perdue and the administration have thrown America’s farmers to the wolves, telling them that their family businesses don’t matter. We called on the president to reverse Secretary Perdue’s actions and he has failed to right this wrong, so we are seeking justice through the courts.”

Democracy Forward, which is representing the OCM pro bono, says, “We know from decades of evidence that massive agribusiness companies don’t hesitate to use their power to abuse these farmers and the “Farmer Fair Practices Rule” was a crucial step to restoring fairness in the market. It should be restored either by USDA, or by the court.”

The GIPSA rule which was finalized in the last days of the Obama administration was strongly opposed by the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council and North American Meat Institute.

The suit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

USDA plans to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule
USDA announced it was proposing to withdraw from the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule and is seeking public comments. USDA says it was proposing withdrawing the OLPP final rule because the final rule would exceed its statutory authority.

The rule is to go into effect on May 14. It would add new requirements regarding the handling and transporting of organic livestock and poultry for sale or slaughter. The rule would increase requirements covering livestock care, production practices and living conditions. Clipping hens’ beaks and pigs’ tails would no longer be allowed. The OLPP final rule was published in the final days of the Obama administration.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is accepting public comments on the proposal to withdraw the OLPP final rule until Jan. 17.

Congress avoids government shutdown
With a government shutdown fast approaching this week, Congress reached an agreement yesterday on a short-term continuing resolution that will fund the federal government until Jan. 19. The CR includes a provision that waives the PAYGO requirements as a result of the tax bill. Since the tax bill passed by Congress will increase the national debt by an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, PAYGO would have gone into effect unless Congress passed the waiver. If Congress had failed to pass the waiver then automatic cuts would have taken effect next year and would have affected numerous federal programs including farm program payments and Medicare.

Tax bill moves on
Congress passed the tax bill and has sent it to the White House. President Trump plans to sign the bill before Christmas.

House ag committee sets up 2018 farm bill website
As Congress looks to move forward on the farm bill next year, the House Agriculture Committee has set up a special website on the new farm bill, providing updates and information. Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, says, “I’m committed to completing a farm bill on time. We’ve spent the past three years preparing — holding 113 hearings and six listening sessions around the country. We recognize what’s at stake. We’re working on getting the policy right and will use this site as a resource as we advance the next farm bill.”

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