Thank You Secretary Vilsack
By John Crabtree
With all the budget-cutting rhetoric and partisan bickering these days, we hear so little about good things getting done in DC. It is crucial, therefore, to offer a word of thanks for a job well done, especially in these times.
On June 22, 2010, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack published a draft livestock market reform rule, commonly known as the GIPSA rule, which defined an "unreasonable preference," a.k.a, the sweetheart deals packers give to the nation's largest livestock producers and deny to family farmers and ranchers, in violation of the Packers and Stockyards Act.
In 1997 farmer Keith Mahaney of Walthill, Neb. called for this rulemaking in testimony to the National Commission on Small Farms. Since then I've heard thousands of family farmers and ranchers make the same call. Eleven years later, all of us, together, were finally able to get Congress to direct the writing of that rule. Secretary Vilsack wrote a strong set of livestock market reforms, perhaps the boldest since the Packers and Stockyards Act passed in 1921. And for that I thank you Mr. Secretary.
On June 22, however, another year passed, and we're still waiting, still urging Secretary Vilsack and President Obama to move the rule forward, still urging Congress not to hamstring them. And we're still reminding all of them of the countless times family farmers, ranchers and other concerned citizens, both rural and urban, called upon them to level the playing field and make livestock markets fair and competitive.
John Crabtree farms near Dougherty, Iowa and works for the Center for Rural Affairs.