U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack received a letter from 147 members of the U.S. House of Representatives May 18, 2011, regarding USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA) proposed rule on livestock and poultry marketing.

The so-called GIPSA rule was proposed June 22, 2010, and as a result of pressure from members of Congress, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and other industry groups, USDA is currently conducting an economic analysis on the proposed rule.

In the letter, which was led by Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), the members of Congress urge Secretary Vilsack to proceed in a transparent manner, which includes allowing stakeholders to comment on the rule before moving forward.

“Particularly in a climate in which additional scrutiny is being applied to regulations seen as over-reaching or overly burdensome, we urge the department to proceed in a transparent manner that allows for those most impacted by this action a chance to comment on not only pending changes to the rule and the accompanying economic analysis as well,” penned the members of Congress, adding that a timeline for completion of the economic analysis and any further action is also needed.

NCBA President Bill Donald said the 147 members of Congress stood up for U.S. cattlemen and women.

“The proposed GIPSA rule puts big government smack dab in the middle of our business. It is the most pervasive invasion of federal government into the private marketplace I have ever witnessed,” said Donald, who is a Montana rancher. “I am proud we have leaders inside the Beltway willing to hold this administration accountable for its actions.”

The members of Congress stated in the letter that it is troubling USDA appears to be using the rule-making process to accomplish objectives specifically rejected by Congress. Colin Woodall, NCBA vice-president of government affairs, said the elected leaders are holding USDA accountable in a big way. He said it is unprecedented to see an agricultural issue receive this level of bipartisan alignment.

“It is clear that USDA’s unpopular rule goes above and beyond the intent of Congress,” said Woodall. “Withdrawing the rule and developing a solution that is consistent with the intent Congress made clear in the 2008 farm bill is the only acceptable solution for Secretary Vilsack. This rule absolutely cannot move forward as written.”