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Senators support GIPSA competition rule

Twenty-one senators have signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in support of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's proposed livestock and poultry competition rule released in late June. Cattle producers and farm advocates who have long pressed for increased oversight of the meatpacking, hog processing and poultry integrator industries expressed support for the letter from the senators.

"Independent livestock producers welcome the support for the rule by these senators," said Mabel Dobbs, a rancher from Weiser, Idaho, with the Western Organization of Resource Councils. "These rules are the first step toward leveling the playing field between producers and the packers."

The senators' "Dear Colleague" letter to USDA comes on the heels of increasingly vehement opposition to the proposed rule by the meatpacking and processing companies. The proposed rule would restore necessary balance between cattle and hog producers and the packers that buy their livestock, and would also prohibit some of the most egregious practices that are now common in the contract poultry industry.

"We are pleased that so many senators are helping to demonstrate the importance of this proposed rule," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. "If we are to restore a fair and just market that will provide economic opportunities for all livestock producers, we must embrace this rule that will not only hold the dominant meatpackers accountable for their market practices and impart transparency to the market, but also prohibit certain practices that clearly are anticompetitive."

"The letter from senators demonstrates the popular support for these sensible rules from poultry producers everywhere," said Mike Weaver, president of the Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias. "These proposed rules must be swiftly implemented to protect contract poultry growers from unfair contracts that are all too common today."

The release of the proposed rule coincides with a yearlong series of joint workshops on concentration and competition in the agriculture sector hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice and USDA. The next workshop is scheduled for 8 a.m. MDT on Aug. 27, in Fort Collins, Colo., on the campus of Colorado State University. This particular event will examine concentration in the livestock sector, especially beef cattle and hogs. Livestock producers should attend this workshop and also submit comments to USDA in support of the proposed competition rule.

"Now is the time for action," said Rhonda Perry, livestock and grain farmer from Howard County, Mo., and Program Director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. "Family farmers and livestock producers need to make their voices heard over the well-heeled lobbyists of the meatpackers. Independent hog and cattle producers in Missouri commend Senator McCaskill for signing on to the letter and standing up for Missouri's family farmers in support of the rules."

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