Billings, Mont. – R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard issued the following statement following the two Federal Register notices published today that 1) extended for six months (to October 19, 2017) the effective date of the interim final rule that clarifies that victims of unlawful packer conduct would not have to prove the competitiveness of the entire industry was harmed before seeking protection under the Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act), and 2) asks for public comments by June 12, 2017 regarding whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture should even follow through with implementing the interim final rule.
“Had the agency proposed a 60-day extension to provide the soon-to-be-confirmed Secretary of Agriculture time to evaluated this important rule, we would have agreed. But that’s not what the agency did. Instead, it has set the rule on a course for defeat by establishing an inexcusably long delay and by proposing a new rule that essentially seeks a vote on whether the rule should even go into effect.
“This is unprecedented and reveals that special interests are heavily influencing the agency. The agency received over 60,000 comments in response to the 2010 attempt to first implement this critical rule, the vast majority of which favored the rule. There is no justification for such a long delay.
“Moreover, the agency clearly explained in its interim final rule that since the 96-year-old P&S Act has been in effect, the agency’s longstanding position, based on the language and structure of the Act as well as its legislative history and purposes, has been that individual producers are not required to show overall injury to competition before receiving protections against the unlawful conduct of packers.
“What’s the agency going to do during this delay? Decide the Act’s language has suddenly become ambiguous or that Congress’ historically established intent has now changed?
“This delay is more than just frustrating. The multinational meatpackers would not have been able to break the cattle market as they did in 2015 if this rule was in effect. That’s because, for example, individual producers could have sought injunctive relief when the packers forced them to overfeed their cattle for three to four additional weeks in order to give the packers more tonnage at a reduced cost, which effectively reduced the demand and price of our members’ cattle.”