Former GIPSA Chief sets record straight after personal attacks from industrial agriculture activist

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Farm Forum

Billings, Mont. – In a recently published article, J. Dudley Butler, immediate past administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), was personally attacked by Steve Dittmer, an industrial agriculture activist who has long defended the transnational meatpackers’ ability to exercise their market power against domestic cattle producers with impunity.

Last week, the feisty former GIPSA chief came out swinging. He sent an open letter to Dittmer that he titled, “Confronting the Lie.” In addition to calling Dittmer’s writings “yellow journalism” and asserting the activist has a penchant for “fiction disguised as the truth,” Butler provided facts to dispel the myths that leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives continually espouse to block USDA from finalizing the rule that Butler had proposed.

Butler’s rule, known as the GIPSA rule, authorized USDA to prevent meatpackers from engaging in unfair, deceptive and discriminatory practices. But Dittmer and his allies, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Meat Institute (AMI) made false, and often outrageously false, allegations to convince House leaders to defund the GIPSA rule in each of the congressional appropriations bills passed since 2011.

Such language to defund the GIPSA rule is currently in the FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill approved by the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations but now stalled on the House Floor. The Senate version of the bill does not contain any similar language to defund.

Contrary to what Dittmer and other activists continue telling Congress, Butler stated his rule declared “that retaliation, denial of due process, bad faith and fraud were violations of section 202 of the Act (Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921).”

Responding to the activists’ false claim that the GIPSA rule would eliminate value added programs, Butler stated his rule did not affect legitimate value added premiums and discounts but it did protect all farmers and ranchers from discriminatory pricing and other deceptive practices.

Butler also staunchly defended his belief that the NCBA “has lost its way by placing big meat packers and retail interests over cattlemen’s interests.”

His letter states: “Why does NCBA fight country of origin labeling? The consumers want it, but the packers don’t. Why does NCBA fight the GIPSA rules that deal with unfair practices? Most farmers and ranchers want rules ensuring fair trade, but the packers don’t.

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard says his group continues to explain to members of Congress that they have been misled by industrial agriculture activists like Dittmer and the NCBA and that domestic livestock producers deserve the protections accorded them by antitrust legislation like the Packers and Stockyards Act; but, he said, “Such protections cannot be extended to domestic farmers and ranchers unless the GIPSA rule is first finalized.”