GIPSA delays implementation of Scope Rule
—Move comes three weeks after comments closed
In a surprisingly speedy turn-around, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIP- SA) responded to stakeholder comments on one of the so-called “Farmer Fair Practices” rules. GIPSA announced last Wednesday that implementation of the “Scope Rule” would be delayed until October, 2017.
GIPSA explained, in the Federal Register, that it was delaying implementation “in response to a comment received from a national general farm organization that requested an extension of time and to allow time for further consideration by USDA.”
GIPSA noted in the Federal Register that there was considerable public interest in the rule. It additionally claimed there would be insufficient time to go over the comments submitted and noted that an additional proposed rule will be released to solicit additional comments on “the direction USDA should take with respect to the rule.”
As covered in the past in WLJ, the “Farmer Fair Practices” were composed of three different rules proposed by GIPSA to amend the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA). One of the rules applied only to chickens, while the other two—the “Scope Rule” and the “Unfair Practices Rule”—would impact cattle operations. Of those two, the “Scope Rule” was an interim final rule which would have gone into effect on April 22.
The “Scope Rule” would have amended the PSA to drop the proof-of-harm requirement for producer lawsuits alleging unfair treatment by packers. This was one of the biggest concerns for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in its opposition to the proposed amendments.
“This is another step toward common sense and away from counterproductive government intrusion in the free market,” said NCBA President Craig Uden in the group’s response to the GIPSA announcement.
“That said, while a delay is welcome, ultimately this rule should be killed and American cattle producers should be free to market our beef without the threat of government-sanctioned frivolous lawsuits.”
Bill Bullard, CEO of the Ranchers-Cattlemen’s Action Legal Fund, blasted the delay, however, calling it “unprecedented.”
“Had the agency proposed a 60-day extension to provide the soon-to-be-confirmed secretary of agriculture time to evaluate this important rule, we would have agreed. But that’s not what the agency did. Instead, it has set the rule on a course for defeat by establishing an inexcusably long delay and by proposing a new rule that essentially seeks a vote on whether the rule should even go into effect.” — WLJ