By Mike Stranz, NFU government relations representative
During his speech to a joint session of Congress on September 8th to unveil the Jobs Bill, President Obama stated the concern of many Americans: “The question is whether in the face of an on-going national crisis, we can stop the circus and actually do something to save the economy.”
While the Jobs Bill is attracting lots of debate as to how to put Americans back to work, National Farmers Union is asking the President to follow through on a campaign promise (see page 2, “Prevent Anticompetitive Behavior Against Family Farms”) that will stop the loss as well as create new jobs: to fix the rules that allow the meat industry to take advantage of farmers and ranchers. President Obama should finalize and implement the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (or GIPSA) rule, which prevents packers and processors from driving farmers and ranchers out of business one at a time, and it protects producers who speak out against unfair business practices.
The cost of not finishing the GIPSA rule, which has already been under consideration for more than a year, is clear. In the last thirty years, 1.2 million beef and pork farms and ranches have gone out of business. In 1980, there were 1.3 million beef cattle operations. Today, only 740,000 remain. The decline in hog operations has been even more dramatic. Thirty years ago, there were 660,000 hog farms. Today, there are only 67,000. Last year alone, 2,300 hog producers went out of business. The GIPSA rule is one of the few ways farmers can begin to reverse this trend.
Organizations with ties to the livestock and poultry packing and processing industry have cried foul over the GIPSA rule, claiming that it will “kill jobs.” One of the flawed economic analyses that is frequently referenced was prepared for the National Meat Institute. This bought-and-paid-for study has been debunked by economists at the University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center. Don’t believe the questionable research commissioned by some of the largest meatpackers in the country, who made billions in profits last year. Of course they don’t like the GIPSA rule – it will stop them from wielding their unfair market power over American family farmers and ranchers.
With a strong GIPSA rule in place and enforced, healthy competition among livestock and poultrybuyers will help farmers and rancher receive fair prices and to be able to stand up for themselves when the meat industry abuses their power. Family farmers and ranchers, by spending their money in rural communities, sending their children to rural schools and being part of small towns across the country, are the people who truly grow jobs. The Obama administration can keep rural America competitive by making livestock markets competitive.