The North American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Chicken Council, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation sent a joint letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging him to allow public comment if USDA proceeds with certain portions of a controversial livestock and poultry marketing rule originally proposed in 2010 and strongly opposed by meat, poultry, and livestock sectors.
“The opposition expressed six years ago remains as staunch as ever, and we urge the agency to abandon the Proposed Rule because of the significant adverse effect adopting it would have on the meat and poultry industry, particularly the producer community, who will be disproportionately affected,” the letter said.
The groups emphasized that if USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) proceeds with the rule as it recently announced it might, additional opportunity to comment is essential. The groups cited requirements within the White House’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and Executive Orders 12866 and 13563, which call upon government to be transparent and to permit comment periods of at least 60 days on proposed rules.
“Although GIPSA provided an opportunity for affected stakeholders to comment on the Proposed Rule, more than six years have passed since its publication,” the letter said. “If the agency relies only on the administrative record as it existed when the comment period closed in November 2010, it is affirmatively choosing to ignore the many changes in and evolution of the livestock, meat, and poultry industry during the past six years and would publish a rule on a record that can only be described as stale and not developed in a ‘timely fashion.’”
The groups said that the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) has not participated in the work being done currently, just as OCE did not initially participate when the Proposed Rule was prepared. When OCE later was given the opportunity to do so, it concluded the economic impact was considerably greater than originally estimated and for that reason, OCE’s analysis is critical if GIPSA proceeds with portions of the proposal.
“Given the time that has passed since the agency published the Proposed Rule six years ago, the undersigned organizations respectfully request that, if the agency still believes one or more of the elements of the Proposed Rule should be considered, the rulemaking on those issues begin anew, or at the very least the comment period be reopened to afford stakeholders a meaningful opportunity to gather and provide updated information about the current state of the livestock industry and everyone who would be affected by the Proposed Rule,” the letter concluded.