OAKLAND, Calif. – Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR), pushed since the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999, has finally surfaced from a series of reviews within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The final rule (nearly 300 pages) responds to many of the comments that were submitted earlier this year. Notably, packers will not be required to report purchases at auction markets. Further, packers will not be required to report sales of product not sold at carlot-based prices.

"Various features have been eliminated, such as cut date, buyer and destination for boxed beef cuts," commented NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow, "but the question remains: Can it fly or will this machine that doesn't yet have a defined engine even be able to get off the launching pad?"

The rule intended to provide market information that can be readily understood by producers, packers and other market participants. It has been energetically driven by the Northern tier states, led by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). But the question remains as to whether producers, from whom there were only 29 comments out of a total of 703 on the proposed rule, will really use the wealth of new information when they are not using the information currently available in the voluntary program. And the new rule does not explain how the data from the two programs will be integrated in the reports.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service officials have said that they will be scheduling meetings with packers in December to work out implementation efforts so that the mandated reporting can be effectuated in 60 days (end of January 2001).

There are some serious concerns that, by not being specific in the proposal about the computerized electronic transmission of data, the Agency may have violated the Administrative Procedures Act. The new rule does little to address these concerns, dismissing them in one short sentence that proclaims: "... all of its provisions are issued consistent with the provisions of that Act."

National Meat Association