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Killing the Competition: Meat Industry Reform Takes a Blow

 

One of the least-discussed but most promising attempts at food system reform was dealt a serious blow the other day. The USDA itself eviscerated its proposed reform to a set of rules which would have given a government division with a wonky name–the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA)–authority to crack down on the way large corporate meatpackers wield power over small and mid-sized ranchers.

To say this was a lost opportunity is a vast understatement. After all, the top four companies control 90 percent of all beef processing. In the case of pork, four companies control 70 percent of the processing, while for poultry it’s nearly 60 percent. When you get that kind of market power,* abuse becomes rampant. Indeed, ranchers all around the country now agree that it’s impossible for them to get a fair price for livestock. Read more

For Fair Food, Even the Big Guys Need to Play by the Rules

On Valentines Day, while most people fretted about dinner reservations or flowers, a coalition of livestock producers, agriculture groups, and consumers took time out to show a little love for fair food by participating in a national call-in day to the White House. Over 2,000 confirmed calls were placed throughout the country to the White House to ask the Obama administration to finalize and implement fair livestock marketing rules. Read more

GIPSA Under Attack by… A Pro-Consumer Group?

It is countdown time for the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, or GIPSA’s proposed rule that would protect small family livestock farmers and ranchers from the historical monopolies of the big four meat packers who control the market. You’d expect that pro-citizen groups and all enlightened meat consumers would be united in hot pursuit of fair market access for small farmers, pushing the USDA to allow the GIPSA rules to be enforced after the comment period ends on November 22nd. You’d be wrong. Read more

Why New GIPSA Rules Support Family Farms

The USDA has a law on the books that levels the playing field between family farmers who raise cattle, hogs and poultry and the large meat packers who purchase their livestock and bring it to market. It’s called the Packers and Stockyard Act, and its overseen by the USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration or GIPSA. But don’t tussle with that mouthful because it doesn’t explain what you need to know about the complex livestock market system. Just keep reading. GIPSA makes sure small producers have equal access to market that larger producers do. It’s fair competition, which is, of course, the American way.

Sounds great, right? And just in time for the good food revolution. But instead, this law has been gathering dust because the USDA hasn’t enforced it. New proposed rules (previously covered here on Civil Eats) amending the act would prevent large meat packers from artificially lowering the price of cattle, hogs and lamb. But four companies control over 80 percent of the U.S. meat market, and these “Big Four” are fighting an effort to strengthen the rule. Read more

New Livestock Rules Cause House Ag Committee, Industry to Blow a Fuse

On Tuesday, a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a meeting in the lead up to the 2012 Farm Bill that descended into a contentious complaint session by Democrats and Republicans alike over the new rules proposed by the USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). Many Ag Committee members take campaign donations from the industries that would be affected (in the 2010 cycle, House Agriculture Committee members have taken a combined $236,500 from the poultry and egg industry, and $281,611 from the livestock industry), and their reaction makes clear then that these rules could hold the potential for real reform. Read more