One of the largest U.S. farm groups called for the incoming Biden administration to rescind a new fair play rule for livestock marketing, unveiled by the Agriculture Department on Thursday, that it sees as a setback for family farmers in dealing with the handful of companies that dominate the meat industry.
The USDA should provide strong protections for livestock and poultry growers in their dealings with meatpackers and processors, said farm activists on Thursday in delivering petitions signed by more than 84,000 people in support of a “robust” fair-practices rule.
In one of USDA's biggest decisions in the Trump era, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue killed the so-called GIPSA rule on fair play in livestock marketing. Two months later, the farm group Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) filed suit in the U.S. appeals court in St. Louis for reinstatement of the rule, issued in the closing weeks of the Obama administration.
On his first day at work, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told employees, "I don't cage too well." So it was apt that the peripatetic Perdue was on the road this week, speaking at the FFA convention in Indianapolis and touring the prairie pothole region of the northern Plains, when he reached his six-month mark at USDA. Ag leaders rate Perdue highly as an ambassador for agriculture and agree with his policy decisions.
In one of its biggest decisions since President Trump took office, the USDA killed an Obama-era proposal that would make it easier for livestock producers to prove unfair treatment at the hands of meat processors. “They’re just pandering to the big corporations,” said small-farm defender Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, nearly shouting in his “violent opposition to what they are doing.”
Building on a controversial USDA reorganization rolled out in May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced further steps to realign “a number of offices within the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to improve customer service and maximize efficiency.”
First, the Trump administration delayed the so-called GIPSA rule on fair play in livestock marketing. Now, it is issuing a similar six-month delay of a regulation setting nationwide animal welfare standards for organic livestock and asking if it would kill the rule, re-write it or let it take effect. The actions raise questions about the future of a proposed organic checkoff program. All three initiatives were among the final Obama-era acts at USDA.
Saying there are significant issues that warrant further review, the USDA delayed until Oct. 19 the implementation of an Obama-era rule that makes it easier for livestock producers to prove unfair treatment at the hands of meat processors. The largest cattle- and hog-producer groups called on the Trump administration to kill the rule outright. Advocates said the new delay was "anti-farmer."
Years in development, the animal welfare rule for organic farming, issued in the final days of the Obama administration, will take effect at least 60 days later — May 19 — than planned due to the Trump administration freeze on new regulations, said USDA. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) urged the government "to avoid further delays and allow this new effective date to stand."