In a bid to ensure U.S. livestock producers’ views on a proposed rule for the Grain Inspection and Stockyards Act (GIPSA), the National Farmers Union held late-February briefings for politicians and staff in Washington, D.C. The panel was comprised of livestock producers from across the country.

The proposed rule addresses concerns that have been discussed in the industry for decades. The rule is within the scope of GIPSA’s authority granted by the Packers and Stockyards Act and was developed in response to the 2008 farm bill, which requires the USDA to carry out specific rulemaking to improve fairness in the marketing of livestock and poultry.

“It is critical to ensure that the voices of U.S. producers are heard through this rulemaking process,” said Roger Johnson, NFU President. “The proposed rule is essentially a Farmer and Rancher Bill of Rights. It puts teeth into the Packers and Stockyards Act and ensures U.S. farmers and ranchers can compete in a fair and open market.”

The broken livestock marketing system has taken a toll on rural America. The number of U.S. beef and hog operations has been rapidly declining over the last 30 years. In 1980, there were 660,000 hog farms, while only 67,000 remain today. Thirty years ago there were 1.3 million beef cattle operations, but only 950,000 today. The GIPSA rule would prevent packers and processors from abusing their market power and would protect the rights of producers.

“The current system is broken, and now is the time to make a change,” said Johnson. “Some aspects of the proposed rule would benefit from additional clarification, but overall the rule is a much-needed regulatory measure to combat the market concentration that has taken place in the last 30 years. The top four beef packers control over 81 percent of the sales of cattle for slaughter in the U.S., and the top four swine processors control about 65 percent of hog sales. This concentration allows packers monopsony power and significantly harms farmers and ranchers.”