Karen Steuer, director of government relations at the Pew Environment Group, issued the following statement in response to today's Congressional vote to approve an appropriations measure that derails long-needed reform to help independent family farmers across the United States.
“Congress today ignored the interests of independent family farmers when it voted to prohibit much-needed action that would have promoted open competition in livestock markets. The proposed GIPSA rule (named after the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration that would have implemented it) would have given relief to small and mid-sized farmers who have long been subject to unfair and anti-competitive practices by very large meatpackers and poultry processors.
“This is a particularly hard blow to the farmers and ranchers who attended public workshops for more than a year and the tens of thousands of Americans who submitted comments to the Departments of Agriculture and Justice in support of the rule.
“Independent family farmers have long reported that smaller operators are routinely squeezed out by discriminatory pricing, unfair contract stipulations, collusion among large meat packers to distort prices, and retaliatory actions against individual growers and ranchers.
“The Obama administration shares responsibility for today's action. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had more than a year and a half to provide guidance and clarity in a new rule, and its delay provided an opening for industry to exert pressure on Congress—and independent farmers and ranchers have suffered a real loss as a result.”
UPDATE: On Dec. 8, 2011, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the publication of the long-awaited GIPSA rule. Learn more about the final version.