POLITICO’s Morning Agriculture: Former GIPSA chief: Rules are ‘band aid on a gaping wound’

By Jason Huffman | 04/04/2017 10:00 AM EDT

With help from Helena Bottemiller Evich, Anthony Adragna, Jenny Hopkinson and Catherine Boudreau

FORMER GIPSA CHIEF: RULES ARE ‘BAND AID ON A GAPING WOUND’: J. Dudley Butler, former head of USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration, applauds efforts by the agency to better protect livestock growers in their relationships with processors, but says two of the three regulations are "like placing a band aid on a gaping wound."

Butler, an attorney, spent 25 years battling the meatpacking industry and practices that critics say keep growers under processors’ thumbs before leading the charge for new regulations when he took charge of GIPSA in 2009. But Congress passed appropriations riders to block many of his actions, and he left the agency in 2012.

He says he’s okay with the interim final rule that USDA introduced in December to better clarify the threshold for farmers to challenge meat companies in court and before the agency, but he does not support the two related proposals that are intended to further define unfair practices. He argues those measures could be construed as providing processors with the ability to argue that they have a "legitimate business justification" – an antitrust defense – for a number of practices that are prohibited by the Packers and Stockyards Act. For example, a processor might say: "’We’re not selling as much chicken this week’ and cut off a grower for ‘economic reasons,’" he told MA.

Read Butler’s letter to GIPSA here. And for more about the GIPSA-related quandary that Agriculture Secretary nominee Sonny Perdue will face when he takes office, Pro Ag’s Catherine Boudreau has got you covered.