Butler, GIPSA head, resigns

News
Jan 27, 2012
by DTN

J. Dudley Butler, the controversial administrator of the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), announced that he would resign.

“I want to thank J. Dudley Butler for his outstanding service as administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement distributed by his office. “President Obama and I believe fair and competitive markets are critical to the success of American agriculture, and Dudley has worked tirelessly to advance this cause. USDA looks forward to continuing this work on behalf of our nation’s producers.”

In a statement that was also distributed by Vilsack’s office, Butler said: “I have enjoyed the past three years at USDA working with Secretary Vilsack to strengthen American agriculture and build fair markets for livestock and poultry producers.

I leave knowing our commitment to these hardworking men, women and families will continue.”

The appointment of Butler, a Mississippi lawyer who had been involved in a number of lawsuits involving antitrust issues, had been praised by the National Farmers Union, R-CALF USA, the National Family Farm Coalition and other groups that are critical of the meat industry and have hoped that the Obama administration would strengthen antitrust provisions of the Packers and Stockyards Act using authority granted to USDA by Congress in the 2008 farm bill.

But Butler’s appointment shocked the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other representatives of larger meat producers and processors.

Butler proposed a change in the GIPSA rule that USDA officials said would benefit consumers and producers by giving meat producers more power in their relationship with feedlot operators and other meat buyers.

The new rule thrilled critics of agribusiness, but big meat producers and buyers fought back hard, saying that the new rule would make it impossible for some producers to continue market arrangements through which they had been making money. The Obama administration reacted by establishing a long comment period, but in November, Congress barred the administration from implementing parts of the rule. USDA announced a weaker version of the rule.

Butler did manage to finalize some rules regarding chicken contracts that pleased his supporters. — Jerry Hagstrom, DTN

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