USDA Stands Up for Big Ag, Not Fair Food
By Rich Bindell
The USDA has once again failed to protect independent farmers from the companies that control our broken food system. They have sent part of the much-debated GIPSA rule over to the White House for final approval – without critical parts of the proposed rule that are needed to equalize competition for independent cattle and hog producers in the livestock marketplace. While there may be some positive changes in the rule for the poultry industry (see more detail in the statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter), it is clear that those companies who have solid control over the livestock market also have a lobbying arm that exerts solid control over the current administration.
In 1921, the U.S. government came to the conclusion that something needed to be done about the lack of competition in the meatpacking industry that was allowing a few companies to dominate the market. Congress passed a law called the Packers & Stockyards Act and the USDA created the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) rule to address the problem. The problem is that they have never enforced the law. What good is a seatbelt if you don’t use it?
Fast-forward to 2008, when the Farm Bill yielded a provision instructing the USDA to enforce the GIPSA rule—the proposed rule we’ve been pushing for ever since was was USDA’s opportunity to make a few things right. But they have once again failed consumers, as well as independent producers.
This is a frustrating development for those who have stood up for fair competition on behalf of independent food producers, but this fight cannot end here. We’ll have to continue to pursue the remaining parts of the GIPSA rule and hope that there will be another opportunity to make meaningful change to our broken food system.