It's now been a year since USDA proposed a new rule dealing with the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Act, and three years since the 2008 Farm Bill was passed directing the department to develop such a rule. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says it's now time to implement and enforce that livestock and poultry marketing reform. He says farmers and ranchers have waited long enough.
"What we are doing is encouraging action," Johnson said during a press conference on Wednesday. "We understand there were a lot of comments that were made and we certainly support USDA analyzing and considering all of those comments, but at some point we have to act. We understand there are resource constraints and all those sorts of things, but you know what, the ship is sinking and we need action to begin to plug some of the holes here."
Johnson says packers have been engaging in unfair and deceptive practices that harm small family farmers and ranchers. He says producer-supporters of the GIPSA rule have lost market access and dealt with discrimination in contracts.
"What we have is a very, very concentrated, non-competitive marketplace that needs to be fixed," Johnson said. "That's what the rule purports to begin to do."
According to Johnson the economic impact on rural America stemming from the lack of competition in livestock markets and the resulting loss of farmers and ranchers is clear. He notes there were 1.3 million beef cattle operations 30 years ago and just 740,000 today.
The situation isn't any better for hog producers. There are 67,000 hog farms today, down from 660,000 in 1980. More than 2,000 hog producers went out of business last year alone.
National Farmers Union is encouraging producers to call in to the Administration to urge them to act now to implement and enforce the GIPSA rule.