Members of the House and Senate this week in two separate Congressional hearings voiced disapproval of USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) rulemaking.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared before the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday and the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday this week, where the current PSA rulemaking was addressed.

The House Agriculture Committee hearing, which was a commonly-held oversight hearing of USDA’s policies and recent actions, included Chairman GT Thompson (R-PA) voicing concerns about the rules as well as Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS), who serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry.

“I will submit a question [for the Congressional Record] to you on implementation of the Packers and Stockyards Act [rulemaking] and the concerns I have with the ‘GIPSA’ rules which are coming back for a third time,” Chairman GT Thompson said to Sec. Vilsack at the beginning of the hearing.

“Farm country has made it loud and clear that they cannot survive when the government burdens them with nonsensical regulations and red tape,” Rep. Mann said of the rulemaking. “While I understand USDA was directed by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill to undergo a prescriptive rulemaking under the Act, I also understand that that mandate was satisfied by a rule finalized during the Trump administration.”

“Yet, the Department (USDA) ignores Congressional intent and legal precedent regarding harm to competition,” Rep. Mann continued. “Congress has weighed in and made it clear that competitive harm or likelihood thereof is a requirement to establish a violation of the Act. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry, I can say I concur with my predecessors on this point.”

“If we as Congress did not make it crystal clear, the courts certainly have,” Rep. Mann concluded. “The harm to competition standard has been challenged in federal circuit court eight times and on eight occasions the courts have upheld the will of the legislative branch. In my opinion, this issue is settled.”

Secretary Vilsack this week also appeared before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in a review of USDA’s FY2024 budget. Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) voiced disapproval of the rules in his opening remarks to Sec. Vilsack.

“On the regulatory front, I’m disappointed that the Department has renewed its Obama-era efforts under the Packers and Stockyards Act to dictate how poultry and livestock producers raise and market their animals,” Rep. Harris said at the beginning of the hearing. “Poultry and livestock market structures are both complex and efficient, and ultimately reward high-performing producers who meet consumer demand. A top-down regulatory approach attempting to fundamentally change these production and marketing practices risks harming growers, processors, and consumers alike and to drive these important food industries offshore.”

Later in the hearing, Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA) echoed similar concerns.

“USDA has proposed several rules that disregard the Packers and Stockyards Act and the well-established precedent set in the eight federal appellate circuits,” Rep. Cline said. “I have major concerns for my constituents with these rules that the Department has promoted under its ‘competition agenda.” What you [Sec. Vilsack] announced two years ago were three rules that Congress has historically opposed. Why are these rules not being released all together, knowing how closely linked they are? It’s nearly impossible to evaluate the impacts of them independently.”

“Well, it takes time to formulate them,” Secretary Vilsack said in response to Rep. Cline. “There will be additional rules that we will continue to be filing, but we’re working on it.”