The comment period is underway for USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's proposed rule on livestock marketing. The proposed rule would implement parts of the 2008 Farm Bill related to livestock and poultry contracts. Among other things it would establish criteria under the Packers and Stockyards Act for what constitutes providing or giving undue or unreasonable preference or advantage in a contract.
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, fought to ensure competition was addressed in the last farm bill. After the proposed rules were announced in June he called them a step in the right direction.
"The proposed regulations are going to make a lot of corrections in what we thought we were doing maybe 10 years ago no," Grassley said. "To see some new regulations that enhance discovery and transparency and giving farmers more markets and enhancing competition I think are good things to do."
But the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association say the proposed rule goes beyond the parameters set out in the 2008 Farm Bill. Both groups believe more than 60 days are needed to thoroughly analyze the potential legal and economic impacts on producers and have requested a 120-day extension of the comment period.
Given this process dates back to the mid-1990s, Grassley says he doesn't have a huge problem with the idea of another 120 days, unless it's a stall tactic.
"If you could convince me that this was an effort just to stall as we've had so much stalling before, then I would very much object to it," Grassley said.
The comment period is currently set to expire Aug. 23. NPPC points out this is four days before the next USDA-Department of Justice workshop on competition in the livestock industry.
Regardless of USDA's decision, Grassley notes there is an open comment period and he's hopeful producers will do so.