The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing yesterday to review the state of the livestock industry. Witnesses included U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and NCBA Vice President Todd Wilkinson, a rancher from South Dakota, who was among a panel of livestock producers who testified. Wilkinson said Congress needs to focus on incentivizing expansion of packing capacity and avoid mandates that could interfere with producers’ choice in marketing their cattle. He also cautioned Congress against adopting the Biden administration’s attempt to repeal stepped-up basis and force recognition of capital gains at death.
In addition, Kansas Congressman Tracey Mann questioned Vilsack about the legality of USDA’s announced intention to remove harm to competition as a requirement to prove a violation of section 202 of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA). Mann raised the concern that removing the harm to competition requirement would convert PSA from a tool to ensure equal opportunity to one that ensures equal outcomes. He also questioned whether USDA has the authority to make such a rule given eight U.S. circuit courts of appeal have upheld the harm to competition standard and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the issue. Vilsack earlier in the hearing clearly stated to the committee the Biden administration’s intent to repeal the harm to competition standard despite the unanimous court rulings, but then contradicted himself by telling Mann USDA would follow the law in crafting the new rule.