In only his second and third appearances since stepping down from his federal post in January as Administrator for the USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), J. Dudley Butler will be in the Dakotas this month to inform cattle producers about the future competitiveness of the U.S. cattle industry.
Hosted by the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota (IBAND), the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association (SDSGA), and R-CALF USA, Butler will first speak to area cattle producers at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16 at the Kist Livestock Auction in Mandan, North Dakota. At 7:00 p.m. on Friday, May 18, Butler will speak to area producers at the Fort Pierre Livestock Auction, Fort Pierre, South Dakota. The public is cordially invited to attend both meetings.
Butler was considered the last of the team of reformers appointed by the Obama Administration to put an end to antitrust and anticompetitive practices in the U.S. livestock industry. His resignation was preceded by Christine Varney, former chief of the U.S. antitrust division for the U.S. Department of Justice.
While at his federal post, Butler proposed a rule to clarify and finally implement provisions within the 90-year-old Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 that prohibits the nation's meatpackers from harming independent livestock producers through unfair, deceptive and discriminatory cattle-buying practices.
Butler said his proposed rule contained provisions to "prevent actions by the packers, swine contractors, and live poultry dealers against family farmers and ranchers such as retaliation, fraud and bad faith, just to name a few."
But, his proposed rule met a firestorm of opposition, both from the meatpacking industry and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). The rule's opponents submitted industry-sponsored economic studies claiming the rule would cost the industry and the economy almost $2 billion. However, USDA's chief economist, Joseph Glauber, stated in a memo that the meatpackers' onerous cost estimate was based on a false assumption. He stated the meatpackers' study "inaccurately claims that the proposed rule 'relieves plaintiffs from the burden of proving competitive injury."
Congress was nevertheless swayed by the meatpackers' study, despite its inaccuracies, and in an unprecedented maneuver, it cut all funding available to Butler to issue a final rule.
"Independent cattle producers are being misled by the NCBA's and the meatpackers' old rallying cry that they and the rest of the cattle industry do not want the government to regulate their industry," said Butler adding, "But, what they are not telling producers is that the unregulated control by the meatpackers over independent producers is far more overreaching and more oppressive than any government regulations. Just look at the one-sided contracts now prevalent in the poultry and hog industries.