R-CALF USA: Congress grants meatpackers get-out-of-jail-free card

Farm Forum

Washington, D.C. – The public’s dissatisfaction with Congress could worsen now that Congress has carved out a provision to protect multinational meatpackers from enforcement actions under the Packers and Stockyards Act.

The FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which was just passed by Congress and will fund the government through September 2014, is the vehicle that Congress used to extend their preferential treatment to the world’s largest meatpackers.

The omnibus appropriations bill contains a provision known as the “GIPSA rider,” named after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), which is the regulatory agency charged with enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

The GIPSA rider prohibits GIPSA from writing implementing regulations for the statutory provisions in the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act that was passed to protect independent livestock producers from unfair, fraudulent, discriminatory and other anticompetitive practices carried out by meatpackers.

In 2010, GIPSA proposed rules that would have authorized the agency to begin enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act, which had lain idle for many years because GIPSA administrators had lacked the determination to write implementing regulations.

But the multinational meatpackers detested the 2010 proposed rules that would authorize enforcement action against them so they went straight to Congress for help.

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said Congress’ protection of meatpackers from the law is appalling. He said the omnibus appropriations bill prevents GIPSA from writing regulations to enforce laws that prohibit meatpackers from retaliating against independent livestock producers for exercising their freedom of speech, forcing producers to give up their constitutional right to a jury trial to resolve disputes, and from requiring producers to first prove that their entire industry was harmed by a meatpacker’s anticompetitive practices before such practice can be stopped.

“The multinational meatpackers found a friend in Congress,” said Bullard, asking, “Wouldn’t we all like a friend like that who will protect us from having to follow laws that we don’t like?”

“Congress has bent over backwards to insulate their multinational meatpacker friends from the law, effectively elevating them above the law,” he said.

“The losers from this congressional gifting are independent livestock producers who suffer when meatpackers don’t have to follow the law and consumers whose meat prices will rise for the same reason.

“The public should be outraged,” Bullard concluded.