Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday hammered USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber about the livestock marketing rule proposed by USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration.

Glauber admitted that the rule appears to cost more than $100 million – the threshold that should have triggered an economic impact analysis prior to the massive rule being published last June (2010).

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) took issue with the intent of GIPSA leaders in proposing the rule.

USDA’s prepared comments indicated that the economic analysis is now being done at the urging of Congress. USDA said that a team headed by Glauber “is studying the rule and preparing the necessary cost-benefit analysis. His analysis will reflect the comments and especially the cost-related comments that were received by the agency. We have no present timeline for completing this rulemaking. Our focus is on getting the rule done right and making sure that outstanding issues or concerns are addressed properly.”

Roberts also pressed Glauber about whether the analysis will consider the potential chilling effect the GIPSA rule could have on successful marketing agreements between livestock producers and meat processors. Glauber responded the potential impact is a “very big issue that figured into lots of the comments received.”

U.S. Premium Beef CEO Steve Hunt says that the value-based pricing his company uses is vital to attracting cattle for some of their key programs like branded, natural and age-verified.

“Our records show that producers of all sizes have benefitted from our value-based system. However, our smallest producers typically have earned the largest premiums per head,” Hunt says.

On another issue, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) questioned the Food Safety and Inspection Service administrator about the status of USDA’s response to a Farm Sanctuary petition asking that all non-ambulatory livestock be condemned. He noted that many hogs are simply fatigued, and there are no food safety gains to be made from not permitting market hogs to rest, recover and be processed. Alfred Almanza said the agency is still reviewing comments, but noted that “concerns with down swine are totally different than concerns with down beef animals.”

This report was prepared from a news release by the American Meat Institute.