Corporate Farming Notes: GIPSA Rule

In March, the House of Representatives adopted a Senate-approved continuing resolution to fund federal spending through Sep 30, 2013. Unfortunately, two troubling legislative “riders” were included in the final legislation. The first sidestepped the 2008 Farm Bill provision that required the Secretary of Agriculture to write what is commonly called the GIPSA rule.

Meatpacking companies have used unfair contract terms, discriminatory premiums, and other sweetheart deals to favor large, industrial livestock operations over smaller family farmers and ranchers. The GIPSA rule would have allowed USDA to prevent that.

The legislative rider limits USDA’s ability to implement any new provisions of the GIPSA rule. But meatpackers and their allies also worked to include radical rider language that forces USDA to rescind existing portions of the GIPSA rule.

This rider takes the extraordinary step of rolling back previously approved and already implemented pieces of the GIPSA rule, over the objections of the Center for Rural Affairs, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Farmers Union, R-CALF, and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The GIPSA rider was not, however, the only ugly provision added by appropriators to the continuing resolution. The bill also included a legislative rider benefiting the biotech industry and undermining judicial review of transgenic crops. The rider permits USDA to deregulate genetically modified crops even in the case of a court ruling invalidating or vacating such deregulation.

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) undertook a dedicated effort to strike both riders from the Senate appropriations bill. Senator Tester, a long-time advocate for family farmers and ranchers across the country, joined Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to offer an amendment to remove the GIPSA rider.

He also worked with Senators Leahy, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to offer an amendment to remove the biotechnology rider. Unfortunately, neither amendment was allowed to come to the Senate floor for a vote.

These senators deserve our thanks. They will need a lot more support to ensure these riders, which expire on Sep 30, do not slither back into future appropriations bills.