Thursday, January 27, 2011

High Court Won't Hear 'Competition' Case

One of the most contentious provisions of a proposed USDA rule on buying and selling livestock would eliminate for federal Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) lawsuits the need for a plaintiff to prove that competition in a marketplace was harmed because of a defendant's "unfair" practice or "undue preference."

Congress considered and rejected such a provision during debate on the 2008 Farm Bill, and the provision is contrary to the rulings of eight U.S. appellate courts, including most recently the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week said it would not consider the decision of the 6th Circuit, which held -- as seven other circuits have -- that to be a violation of the PSA a challenged action must have had an adverse effect on competition.

Supporters of the proposed USDA regulation -- known as the GIPSA rule -- falsely claim that the PSA requires that a plaintiff prove that a practice harmed competition in an entire industry. But it simply requires a showing that competition in a market, which could be as small as a city, county or locality, was adversely affected.

Backers of the competition provision want to be able to bring PSA lawsuits whenever they feel a practices is "unfair." But that would turn simple disputes into federal court cases, leading to massive litigation and creating legal uncertainty for a livestock industry that already is hurting from high feed-grain prices and a worldwide recession and that is trying to feed a growing global population.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

There's No Business Like Pig Business

British filmmaker Tracy Worcester, a self-described “eco-warrior” and “green activist,” released a controversial documentary titled “Pig Business,” which attempts to portray the “dark side” of the global pork industry. In her extremely biased mockumentary, err, documentary, Worcester interviews Sir Paul McCartney, who once fired a roadie for eating meat while on tour and often preaches his vegan/anti-carnivorous gospel. The "film" also includes environmental lawyer turned anti-modern pork production crusader Robert Kennedy Jr., who at a recent congressional hearing likened pork producers to terrorists.

Like others before her, Worcester blames all of society's ills on modern pork production, and the film is dedicated to "putting an end to intensive factory farming." She wants a return to small-scale farming, "sustainable" agriculture and buying locally.

We could pass off this film as just the latest pap from those whose mission it is to push their own personal agenda on all others (telling them what to eat, how to raise it and how to buy it), but it's actually quite dangerous. With food prices on the rise and experts calling for an overhaul of the world food system to feed a global population that is expected to nearly double over the next 40 years, people such as Ms. Worcester, Sir Paul and RFK Jr. are seeking to destroy the systems that now feed more people than ever before. Do they really think backyard pig farms are going to feed a starving world? Seems to HOTH we need more modern livestock and crop production, not less, Ms. Worcester.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Obama to Review, Eliminate Federal Regulations

President Obama today ordered a review of federal government regulations; ones that stymie economic growth and do not promote job growth.

The USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) proposed rule is a good starting point. The President has called for proper balance between not interfering with economic growth and protecting the public.

Should the proposed GIPSA rule take effect, upwards of 22,800 rural jobs will be lost at a time when job loss remains at record levels.

The president noted that his administration won’t shy away from addressing such things as stopping preventable infections in hospitals, but added, “We are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.”

To see why the proposed GIPSA rule is a good starting point for the Obama administration, read the following economic impact summary: An Estimate of the Economic Impact of GIPSA’s Proposed Rules.

Friday, January 14, 2011

You Can Lead A Kid To Broccoli ...

The U.S. Department of Agriculture yesterday announced a proposal to update the nation's nutrition guidelines, which cover the federal School Breakfast and School Lunch programs. It wants kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. (See a sample of the "before" and "after" for a week's worth of school lunches.)

Good luck with that!

From an administration that wants to control everything from health care to car manufacturing, are you really surprised that it wants to tell you -- and your children -- what to eat?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Crop Harvest, Stocks Estimates Down

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today revised down its estimate for the 2010/2011corn harvest and carryover stocks.

In its World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, USDA projected 12.45 billion bushels of corn likely will be harvested, down 93 million bushels from earlier projections. Forecasts for year-end inventories of corn were expected to fall by 87 million bushels to 745 million bushels, the lowest level in more than a decade, according to analysts.

With fewer crops expected to be harvested and growing global demand for them, commodity prices have been rising -- corn has gone from around $3.50 a bushel in June to more than $6 now -- increasing food production costs. But those higher prices also are expected to prompt farmers to plant more acres with crops. Gerald Bange, chairman of USDA's World Agricultural Outlook Board, speaking at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Atlanta, said as much as 10 million more acres could move into crop production this year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Groups Sue EPA Over New Water Rules

A number of organizations yesterday filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its new clean water rules for the Chesapeake Bay and waters in Florida.

EPA set stringent pollution rules for the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed and for Florida rivers, lakes and other bodies of water that could restrict manure use, establishing for nitrogen, phosphorous and other chemicals Total Maximum Daily Limits that can go into those waters.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Monday filed a lawsuit against EPA in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. The Florida League of Cities and the Florida Stormwater Association filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola.

The TMDLs are expected to serve as models for other waterways, including the Mississippi River, and could be used to limit the size of farms and restrict the application of manure to cropland.

Friday, January 7, 2011

'Going To Mexico'

We soon may see a resolution to a more than 15-year-old trade dispute between the United States and Mexico, one that more recently enveloped the U.S. pork industry.

The Obama administration yesterday announced a "concept document" that includes the details for allowing Mexican trucks to haul freight into the United States. Currently, long-haul trucks from Mexico are barred from entering the country beyond a 25-mile commercial zone at selected border crossings.

Under a provision of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican trucks were to begin entering the United States in December 1995, but the Clinton administration, bowing to union opposition, postponed implementation of the provision. In March 2009, after continued U.S. recalcitrance on the trucking issue, Mexico imposed retaliatory import tariffs on $2.4 billion of U.S. goods, and in August it added more products to its retaliation list, including pork.

The new concept document, which was denounced by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters -- the truckers' union -- is a "starting point" for negotiations on the trucking issue.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Let The Games Begin

With the start today of the new (112th) Congress, we apparently also are seeing the beginning of the fight between the Republican-led House and the Obama administration's regulators. (A New York Times story details the coming war.)

We don't know about lawmakers on Capitol Hill, but the National Pork Producers Council already has begun taking on the bureaucrats. In late 2009, it filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a rule requiring livestock farms to obtain Clean Water Act permits -- oral arguments were held in the fall -- and this year, it sued EPA over the agency's decision to grant a partial waiver of the Clean Air Act to allow gasoline to be blended with 15 percent ethanol, up from 10 percent.

With the White House's expected legislating-by-regulating approach, it's likely that quite a few organizations, including ones representing agriculture, will be spending more time in the federal courts than in the federal legislature.