LINCOLN, Neb. — May 14, 2009. This week, J. Dudley Butler was officially sworn into office and assumes his duties as administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) at the USDA in Washington, D.C. OCM offers its hearty congratulations and full support for his daunting task ahead. Butler’s experience and personal qualities make him well suited to the task of putting this agency with its troubled past, back on the right path.
GIPSA is an agency of critical importance to farmers and ranchers. However, many cattle producers have felt that the agency was captured by the packers, the very entities it was supposed to protect them against. In 2000, the GAO conducted an investigation of GIPSA and found the agency falling short in its performance. In 2006, both the Inspector General of USDA and the GAO rendered their reports of investigations into concerns about GIPSA’s lack of enforcement. Both reports were highly critical, prompting hearings before the Senate Agriculture Committee. These hearings produced further disclosure of failed performance and criticism by key senators.
In 2006, the Acting Administrator of GIPSA, JoAnn Waterfield, was revealed to have intercepted numerous enforcement actions, hiding approximately 50 actions in her desk drawer. She instructed subordinates to count any correspondence relating to enforcement as separate enforcement actions thereby creating the perception of vigorous enforcement when in fact enforcement actions were being blocked.
OCM President J. Randall Stevenson remarked, “It is clear to me that there will be an improvement in concern over market integrity. We are confident that J. Dudley Butler as administrator of GIPSA, given the palpable new and better attitude in USDA, will work to assert GIPSA’s role as the market referee, addressing the chronic problems of market power and market access by carefully following the letter of the law as expressed in the Packers and Stockyards Act. We expect that he will work closely with Christine Varney, Deputy Attorney General for Antitrust, to faithfully enforce our body of antitrust law in keeping with its original intent. OCM pledges to be supportive in every way possible.”