Last month, an audit of the Packers and Stockyards Administration revealed that the agency has utterly failed to enforce the very law that gives the agency a reason to exist.
The Packers and Stockyards Administration has become anything but an enforcer of competition in livestock markets. Over 1,800 “investigations” were documented between 1999 and 2005, but according to the Inspector General’s audit, 1,739 of those so-called investigations could not be traced to a specific complaint, producer, packer or other details that a true investigation would contain.
USDA has proven, once again, that they cannot be trusted to use the considerable authority vested in the Packers and Stockyards Act to breathe life back into American livestock markets. Surely they will claim that new leadership at Packers and Stockyards will fix the problem. But it will not, and farmers, ranchers and rural communities will continue to pay the price.
Repeated calls for competition reforms from farmers and ranchers as well as the National Commission on Small Farms, General Accounting Office and Office of Inspector General have fallen on deaf ears at USDA.
That is why Congress must act now to define the rules of livestock market competition and provide clear direction for USDA’s enforcement. Congress should move forward with reform now and prepare for a larger debate over a comprehensive competition title in the 2007 farm bill. If Congress acts boldly on behalf of livestock market competition, farmers, ranchers and rural citizens will stand with them.
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Center for Rural Affairs
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