Members of Congress are beginning to ask the administration for an economic impact analysis of the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration's (GIPSA) rule on livestock and poultry. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), ranking member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, raised the issue, stating: “While many in the affected industry and Congress have focused on what the proposed rule includes, also troubling is what it does not include – a sound economic analysis for interested parties to judge both the need and utility of the proposed rule. In my view, it is unprecedented for a federal agency to propose such a wide-sweeping regulation and not conduct an economic analysis.” Kingston asks that a comprehensive analysis be completed on the proposed regulation in time for individuals and organizations to review before the comment period ends. We can expect more calls from members of Congress and others asking USDA for an economic analysis.

Workshops, Webinar on Proposed GIPSA Rules Announced — The National Agricultural Law Center (NALC) at the University of Arkansas has announced it will conduct a series of workshops and a webinar on the proposed GIPSA livestock and poultry rule. NALC staff will provide an overview of the proposed rule, review the USDA rule-making process, and explain how to submit comments on the proposed rule. The schedule of workshops in Arkansas include: Sept. 21 at Fayetteville; Sept. 28 at Russellville; Oct. 19 at Nashville. A nationwide webinar will be held on Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (CST). Workshop organizers are requesting participants to visit the URL, www.extension.iastate.edu/testconnect, to confirm their ability to connect to the server. For more information, contact NALC at (479) 387-2331.

USDA Seeks Feasibility Studies on Renewable Energy — USDA has announced funds are available to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems for agricultural producers and rural small businesses. Funds are provided under the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill. Eligible feasibility studies for renewable energy systems include projects that will produce energy from wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro power and hydrogen-based sources. The energy to be produced includes heat, electricity or fuel. The projects must be located in a rural area, be technically feasible, and owned by the applicant. Grants are limited to $50,000 per study and the application deadline is Oct. 5. More information is available at www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_ReapGrants.html.

Congress Returns Next Week — Congress returns next week with a long list of items on the agenda. Key items include fiscal year 2011 appropriations, small business assistance, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) food safety reform, taxes, the Obama administration’s new stimulus plan, etc. If history is our guide in an election year, there will be much discussion and debate with little final action. Many of the items will be delayed until after the election for the lame-duck session.

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