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GIPSA Head Resigns After Failures to Run Agency Effectively

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Econ101

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USDA P&S Official Resigns


Fri Dec 23, 2005 12:52 PM CST

-Division Faces Responding to IG Report, Which Will Be Public in January

By Chris Clayton
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- A USDA official who oversaw enforcement of the Packers and
Stockyards Act has resigned as USDA officials are faced with responding to
an investigation by the USDA Inspector General regarding the Packers and
Stockyards Program.

JoAnn Waterfield had been deputy administrator for the Packers and
Stockyards Programs in Washington, D.C., since September 2000 after spending
nine years as an attorney for USDA's Office of General Counsel. She took a
leave of absence from the USDA earlier this month with an effective
resignation date of Dec. 24. Her resignation letter offered no explanation
for leaving, a USDA spokesman said.

Waterfield did not return repeated phone messages seeking comment.

Officials at USDA were given a report on findings by the Office of Inspector
General earlier in December after a months-long investigation that focused
on USDA's enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921.

Packers and Stockyards Programs are tasked with promoting fair and
competitive marketing in the livestock industry and investigating any
practices that could limit or restrict competition. The programs also
investigate fraud, deceptive marketing practices and ensure livestock
producers are promptly and properly paid when selling their animals.

Packers and Stockyards Programs at USDA accounted for $19.5 million in
spending this year. About 150 people are employed in the program, which
regulates a $120 billion livestock industry, according to GIPSA's web site.

The investigation report on programs is expected to be released to the
public sometime in January, said a spokesman for the USDA Office of
Inspector General. Such reports must first be provided to the audited agency
before public release, giving USDA officials 30 days to respond to the
audit's findings before the report becomes public.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, called for the investigation last April,
wanting to know how aggressively and accurately USDA was enforcing the act.

In his letter to the Office of Inspector General, Harkin said he had
information suggesting GIPSA was inflating the number of actual
investigations being conducted by Packers and Stockyards Programs'
competition division "to suggest a high rate of enforcement activity is
taking place when in fact it is not."

GIPSA officials had interpreted a 2000 Government Accountability Office
report in a manner that caused high-level staff at GIPSA to "block and tie
up investigations," Harkin said, and low morale at GIPSA had created high
turnover rates from staff who believed they were not being allowed to
effectively conduct investigations.

Officials at GIPSA have had their share of critics when it comes to
enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Groups who maintain that
livestock markets have become too controlled by meatpackers argue the
programs are not enforcing the law or seeking help from Congress to change
laws and modernize the act.

"They don't go to Congress, say this is a problem, we don't have the
authority and we would like the authority," said Michael Stumo, general
counsel for the Organization of Competitive Markets, in an interview earlier
this year.

The OCM asked Harkin to seek the investigation into GIPSA's enforcement of
after receiving information about the way GIPSA staff logged and defined
investigations.

"An investigation involves receiving a call, writing something down, maybe
making another call and saying it's a closed case," Stumo said. "That's not
the generally accepted definition of the term."

The last two annual reports to Congress by GIPSA have not provided
activities of Packers and Stockyards Programs. The 2005 annual report
released this month only documented the activities of the Grain Inspection
Service programs within the agency.

In testimony to Congress, an official with GIPSA said more than 1,900
competition, financial and trade-practices investigations were conducted in
fiscal year 2004, "helping restore $17 million to the livestock, meatpacking
and poultry industries."

The agency also filed 15 actions against people or companies for violating
the Packers and Stockyards Act, resulting in $61,750 in fines and
suspensions of 12 people or companies from conducting livestock
transactions.

GIPSA's Competition Task Force conducted 22 investigations in fiscal year
2004, including 16 cases involving alleged price preferences in the
fed-cattle markets. The Packers and Stockyards Programs found no evidence of
any violations.

Chris Clayton can be contacted at [email protected]



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PORKER

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Could it be said that Fung will pull the rug out from under USDA Again?????USDA P&S Official Resigns as an investigation by the USDA Inspector General regarding the Packers and Stockyards Program.

Mishandling of a high-risk carcass in Texas in 2004 led to an investigation of USDA’s surveillance program by its Inspector General, Phyllis Fung. Her OIG investigation uncovered a number of irregularities, including the fact that the presumptive positive of November 2004 had actually tested positive by another, experimental test but USDA had not disclosed this to the public or taken further confirmation steps other than the usual IHC, which came back negative. Ms. Fung directed that USDA retest the three presumptive positive samples by the real “gold standard,” the Western blot test.
She Nailed Their Hide to her WALL!!!
 

Mike

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PORKER said:
Could it be said that Fung will pull the rug out from under USDA Again?????USDA P&S Official Resigns as an investigation by the USDA Inspector General regarding the Packers and Stockyards Program.

Mishandling of a high-risk carcass in Texas in 2004 led to an investigation of USDA’s surveillance program by its Inspector General, Phyllis Fung. Her OIG investigation uncovered a number of irregularities, including the fact that the presumptive positive of November 2004 had actually tested positive by another, experimental test but USDA had not disclosed this to the public or taken further confirmation steps other than the usual IHC, which came back negative. Ms. Fung directed that USDA retest the three presumptive positive samples by the real “gold standard,” the Western blot test.
She Nailed Their Hide to her WALL!!!

Surprised she's still around too! :wink:
 

PORKER

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Past Hearings
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN HYDE

Mr. HYDE. The committee will come to order. This morning the committee holds an oversight hearing on competitive issues in agriculture and the food marketing industry. The antitrust aspects of agriculture have long been a topic of interest, but this is the first opportunity we have had to air them since I have been chairman. Today's hearing will cover two separate but related topics. First, we will consider the antitrust implications of growing concentration in the meat-packing and grain-processing industries. Second, we will take a look at the issue of the slotting fees that retail stores charge to place grocery products on the shelves. Both of these competitive issues affect the price of food that we all consume.

With respect to the concentration issue, both the meat-packing industry and the grain-processing industry have experienced mergers and increasing concentration in recent years. Some argue this is a rational response to increasing global competition. Others argue that the packers and processors now have too much market power, and they use that market power at the expense of farmers and producers.

With respect to slotting fees, some argue that these fees are a normal market response to the proliferation of grocery and produce products. Others contend that the fees affect the retailers' market power, and they can use them to stifle innovation and squeeze out smaller manufacturers.

I come to both issues with an open mind. I don't have too many farms in my district. I think that I have a few, but not too many in my district, but we all eat what farmers produce, and we all shop in the grocery stores. Thus these are important issues to all of us. If there are competitive problems, we mean to find out about them.
 

PORKER

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Others contend that the fees affect the retailers' market power, and they can use them to stifle innovation and squeeze out smaller manufacturers.
 

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