Ernst blasts proposed USDA regulation

Source: Journal-Eureka

By Lara Netolicky


      Iowa’s farm economy is not “optimistic and rosy” like the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is, according to Sen. Joni Ernst.

      During a conference call with reporters Sept. 22, Ernst responded to questions about the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule. The rule would limit farmers’ ability to sell animals, dictate the terms of private contracts, make it harder to get farm financing, raise consumer prices and reduce choices, stifle industry innovation and lead to more vertical integration in the livestock industry, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

      The USDA has decided to proceed with portions of the controversial rule, which was proposed in 2010.

      “It really controls the contracts that are available to the growers out there and how they are working with the packing houses,” Ernst said about the rule.

      Ernst said she feared that the rule would cut out small farmers and small operations from being able to engage in contracts, leaving larger packers to contract instead.

      Ernst questioned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the rule during a hearing Wednesday, Sept. 21, for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. She questioned how the rule may affect farmers, ranchers, land owners and consumers in Iowa.

      According to a statement from her office, the proposed rule would inflict high costs on the livestock industry and erect a barrier to young, beginning and small farmers’ ability to get into livestock production.

       “I think USDA as a whole is trying to paint a very optimistic, rosy picture of what’s going on, but in reality that’s not what’s happening on the ground,” Ernst said. “I hear that every day that I’m in Iowa.”

      Ernst cited how corn is currently under $3 per bushel and how hard it is for farmers to get ahead with commodity prices being low. She said she will continue to press Vilsack on the issue and will monitor the issue to make sure the USDA is receiving feedback from stakeholders.

       “What we want to make sure is that even if you’re a small farmer or a beginning farmer you have equal access to these packing houses,” Ernst said.