After many long months of delay and debate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has finalized a weakened version of the GIPSA livestock rule, initially proposed in June 2010. This is the first antitrust action coming out of the USDA after a yearlong series examining antitrust issues in agriculture, co-hosted by the Department of Justice in 2010.
The final livestock rule is an important step in establishing fairness for farmers and ranchers in the highly concentrated livestock sector, but ultimately fell prey to the very corporate powers it was intended to harness.
In the long drawn out GIPSA rule saga, the fate of thousands of farmers and ranchers, and the future of our livestock sector, was compromised in last minute Congressional riders and pork barrel politics that bowed to the nation’s biggest meat companies.
“I think it’s unfortunate that Congress chose to intervene in the process and prevent us from going further,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The outcome is a watered down rule, one that retains some critical and long overdue provisions for poultry and hog producers, but that falls far short for cattle producers, ultimately requiring their core issues in the rule to be revised, and starting the long rulemaking process over again from scratch.
For a more detailed run-down of the ins and outs of the final rule, I recommend checking out the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog post on the ruling.
To learn more about the threats of corporate concentration in the meat industry, check out our past Ask Farm Aid column on the topic and read a press release about Willie, John, Neil and Dave's call for fairness in livestock markets.