USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) announced today that it was extending the comment period on the proposed GIPSA rule on livestock marketing practices by an additional 90 days. The comments will now be due by November 22, 2010. The call for extending the comment period became very strong last week during the House Livestock Subcommittee’s hearing on the proposed rule. Also, Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), ranking member of the committee, and 15 other Senators had sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking for the comment period to be extended 120 days. National Farmers Union, R-CALF, and others had written the secretary asking that the comment period not be extended.

Committee Sends Strong Message to USDA on GIPSA Rule — Members of the House Livestock subcommittee sent a very strong bipartisan message to USDA regarding the proposed GIPSA rule on livestock marketing practices. The committee members told administration officials that the Department had gone far beyond Congressional intent that was established in the 2008 farm bill. The Department was reminded by both Democrats and Republicans that many of these issues that GIPSA is proposing were considered and defeated during the writing of the livestock title of the farm bill. Some members complained that the proposed rules would actually increase concentration, hurt producers, and would eliminate some businesses. The Department officials said the rules were intended to provide transparency, fairness and protect producers against unfair practices. At the end of the hearing Congressman David Scott (D-GA), chairman of the subcommittee said, “For you and the department to arbitrarily go against the wishes and intent of Congress is serious. The least – the least – you can do is to extend the comment period. To move ahead would be the worst thing that we could do for the industry and America.”

Antibiotics Hearing — The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on antibiotic use in animals. FDA, USDA, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) testified about the importance of using anti microbial drugs judiciously and detailed current efforts underway to combat antimicrobial resistance. FDA last month published its draft guidance document, “Draft Guidance on the Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals,” indicating a new policy goal for the use of antibiotics for animals. The agency said “the overall weight of evidence available to date supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production or growth-enhancing purposes (i.e., non-therapeutic or subtherapeutic uses) in food-producing animals is not in the interest of protecting and promoting the public health.” Randall Singer, University of Minnesota, testified about the importance of antibiotic use in animals. He said, “The best was to manage antibiotic uses in animal agriculture is through sound, rational, science-based policy.” Singer also said, “the removal of growth-promoting antibiotics from use in food animals in Denmark resulted in an increased reliance on therapeutic doses of medically important antibiotics to treat the ill animals.” Some witnesses spoke of the need to follow the Denmark example and ban the use of antibiotics. Congresswoman Slaughter (D-NY) has introduced legislation that would ban the use of antibiotics in livestock for growth promotion, control, and prevention of diseases.

National Hot Dog Day — Over 1,500 people, including 100 members of the House and Senate, attended National Hot Dog Day on Capitol Hill. Special guests at the event were former Major League All Stars Ron Guidry, Dale Murphy and Lee Smith. The event was co-hosted by Congressmen Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Frank Lucas (R-OK), ranking member of the committee, and sponsored by the American Meat Institute.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.