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Meatpacker Apologists Engage in Deceptive Smear Campaign Against USDA Official

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Billings, Mont. In a desperate effort to preserve the multinational meatpackers' freedom to continue exploiting consumers and livestock producers with their abusive, monopolistic market power, packer apologists have stooped to a new low.

"Meatpackers' apologists, some of whom claim to be journalists, are openly engaged in an unethical smear campaign targeted at Dudley Butler, Administrator of USDA's (U.S. Department of Agriculture's) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), who heads the agency charged with overseeing the livestock procurement practices of meatpackers by enforcing the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard.

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In June, Butler's agency issued a proposed rule (GIPSA rule) to implement provisions contained in the Packers and Stockyards Act, which prohibits meatpackers from engaging in unfair, unjustly discriminatory, or deceptive livestock procurement practices, or from using their inherent market power to prejudice or disadvantage U.S. livestock producers.

"The purpose of the proposed GIPSA rule is to prevent monopolistic meatpackers from capturing control of the livestock supply chain away from independent family farmers and ranchers," Bullard said. "And, the rule does this by preventing meatpackers from actually exercising their inherent, monopolistic market power to harm both consumers and livestock producers."

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Bullard charges that meatpackers and their apologists are trying to divert attention away from the necessity of the GIPSA rule by attacking the GIPSA chief. He said the first attack came from BEEF magazine writer Troy Marshall, who unethically captured only a partial response Butler made to an audience member's question during the annual meeting of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) over a year ago. Bullard said Marshall then used Butler's partial response to falsely accuse the GIPSA chief of intending to encourage more lawsuits in the livestock industry with the GIPSA rule.

OCM Executive Director Fred Stokes agreed: "Marshall not only unethically twisted Administrator Butler's statement, but he also purposely ignored Butler's contrast between conditions as they presently exist in the marketplace, which Butler said creates such uncertainty as to be "a lawyer's dream, a plaintiff lawyer's dream,' and how those conditions could be corrected with a rule that removes uncertainty by defining the perimeters of unlawful livestock procurement practices which, obviously, would significantly reduce the potential for litigation.

"I carefully reviewed the taped conversation between Mr. Butler and the audience, which is the same conversation that Marshall used to attack Mr. Butler, and there is no way any ethical person could draw such a perverse conclusion as did Marshall," said Stokes.

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Stokes provided to R-CALFUSA a transcript of the conversation.

Transcript of Administrator Butler's conversation during OCM's 2009 annual meeting:

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R-CALF USA, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated (more...)

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