WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of Agriculture officials need to develop recommendations to help livestock producers in Mississippi, especially poultry farmers, reverse declining markets.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee that conducted a hearing on the “State of Livestock in America.” Cochran used the hearing to highlight the poultry industry in Mississippi, which achieved $2.47 billion in production in 2010, which is more than double the value of the second-largest agriculture industry—forestry.
Cochran said, “Producers in my state are very concerned about marketing prospects and the failure of the Administration to make early decisions about what they are going to do to respond to a possible breakdown in marketing.
“The economic prospects in my state are terribly disturbing. Feed costs have reached record highs. Exports to countries like Russia and China have seen huge declines in purchasing. Poultry growers face a great deal of challenge in just maintaining their operations and continuing to try to make a living in this important industry.”
Cochran challenged U.S. Department of Agriculture officials at the hearing, including USDA chief economist Dr. Joe Glauber, to cooperate with Congress and the industry to improve market prospects for livestock producers.
According to Cochran, Glauber recognized the importance of exports to American livestock producers, noting that exports made up 15 to 20 percent of U.S. production over the past decade. However, he did not predict any quick solutions to recover the loss of critical export markets like Russia and China. He also acknowledged that rising feed costs pose an economic hardship on producers, particularly the poultry industry.
At the hearing, Cochran said he was also given assurances that USDA representatives would meet with livestock industry officials from Mississippi and other states to discuss the creation of a warranty program that would help protect livestock producers after their herds are affected by disease. Last January, Cochran asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to cooperate with livestock interests in Mississippi on a livestock warranty program.
“We must move away from herd destruction orders and rely more on preventive measures and early detection measures. They are not getting any help from Washington,” Cochran said.
USDA officials were also challenged to allow additional public comment on the pending changes to the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) rule affecting market fairness and competition for livestock producers. After receiving more than 60,000 comments from the public on its initial proposed GIPSA rule, the USDA embarked on a cost-benefit analysis on the economic impact of the rule.
Some members of the committee argued that additional public comment should be allowed if the cost-benefit review results in modifications to the proposed rule.
Last July, Cochran was among 17 senators who successfully argued for the USDA to extend the public comment period on the GIPSA rule. The 2008 Farm Bill directed GIPSA to undertake a review of existing regulations under the Packers and Stockyard Act and to propose regulatory modifications to improve market fairness and competition as well as to clarify conduct that violates federal law.
Source: Sen. Thad Cochran
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