Billings, MT -- On June 3, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed Larry Mitchell Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). Mitchell succeeds J. Dudley Butler who resigned his post in January to return to his farm in Mississippi.
Mitchell is a former farmer from Texas and held positions in the American Agriculture Movement, National Farmers Union, and the American Corn Growers Association.
Within just days after Mitchell's appointment, the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA), released his subcommittee's Agriculture Appropriations Bill for 2013. That bill contains language to prohibit GIPSA from writing rules to carry out Congress' mandate in the 2008 Farm Bill that directed GIPSA to write rules to prohibit packers from granting undue or unreasonable preferences to some cattle sellers while denying such preferences to others.
In addition, the subcommittee's appropriations bill would prohibit GIPSA from writing rules to prohibit packers from retaliating against independent producers and committing acts of bad faith and fraud against them.
"We are pleased with the Secretary's appointment of Larry Mitchell but the leadership of the House subcommittee on agriculture appropriations is carrying the water for multinational meatpackers that do not want Larry Mitchell or anyone else to prevent them from vertically integrating the cattle industry and stripping producers of their economic independence," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.
Butler proposed rules in 2010 to carry out Congress' mandate to write rules that would protect independent cattle producers from retaliation, bad faith and fraud committed by packers. But, Kingston proposed and Congress approved the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that stopped Butler from proceeding with the finalization of the livestock provisions in the rule until September 30, 2012. Only a few provisions impacting contract poultry and hog growers were actually finalized from the originally proposed rule.
Bullard said the leadership in the House is now attempting to continue the prohibition it placed on Butler through September 30, 2013. "Which means that like Butler's, Mitchell's hands will be tied and the packers will have free rein in their aggressive efforts to capture control over the live cattle supply chain away from independent producers.
"It is disheartening to see firsthand the power that meatpackers exert over Congress and how congressional leaders so flagrantly disregard what is good for family farm and ranch businesses and the rural communities they support just to gain favor with the packers," Bullard concluded.
# # #
R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit http://www.r-calfusa.com or, call 406-252-2516.