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Proposed livestock, poultry rule raises controversy

By ADVOCATE STAFF REPORT
Dec. 14, 2010 at 6:14 a.m.

New regulations, proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, is aimed at leveling the playing field among packers, live poultry dealers, swine contractors, poultry growers and livestock producers, according to the USDA website.

FOR MORE INFORMATIONFor more information about the rule, visit the United States Department of Agriculture Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration website at www.gipsa.usda.gov.

State and national agricultural groups are speaking out against proposed regulations they say could bring severe damage to the nation's livestock and poultry industries.

The new rule, proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, is aimed at leveling the playing field among packers, live poultry dealers, swine contractors, poultry growers and livestock producers, according to the USDA website.

Among other things, it would mean new protections for producers required to make expensive upgrades to facilities, would require companies that pay growers under a ranking system to offer the same base pay to growers who raise the same type of poultry, and would also prohibit packers from selling livestock to other packers.

The proposed rules would kill jobs and decrease domestic food production, Commissioner Todd Staples, with the Texas Department of Agriculture, said in a news release. They would also increase prices for consumers.

"This type of arbitrary mandate will severely decrease the quality and market innovation of a powerful industry that feeds our nation," he said in the release. "In Texas and in America, businesses succeed because they offer a quality product at a fair price through efficiencies, marketing and accountability."

The move would mean the loss of about 104,000 jobs nationwide and would adversely affect gross domestic product by about $14 billion, Mark Dopp, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and general counsel for the American Meat Institute, said in a news release.

"Any reasonable analysis of the industry and the proposed rule would have led to the conclusion that the annual effect on the economy would exceed $100 million," he said in the release. "Here, the agency has failed to properly conduct a thorough economic impact analysis as required. That failure compels the agency to perform that analysis and then re-propose the rule."

Other organizations, such as Food & Water Watch, support the bill.

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America issued an extensive letter targeting claims made by those who oppose the rule.

Among other things, R-CALF, a nonprofit group that represents cattle farmers and ranchers, said the proposed rule is necessary because the United States cattle industry is failing on numerous levels.

The letter, posted on the organization's website, states among its claims that United States beef production has remained stagnant for 14 years, imports continue to take a more of the available beef supply and the packing industry has decreased or eliminated competition between proteins beef, chicken and pork.

" ... R-CALF USA strongly believes the proposed rule is an absolutely essential first step to prevent the dominant beef packers from unlawfully capturing control of the live cattle supply chain away from the nation's independent cattle farmers and ranchers," the letter stated.

Nov. 22 was the last day for organizations to submit comments regarding the proposed regulations. A final decision could come within a few months.

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