Butler was appointed to GIPSA by President Obama in his administration's early days. "He was a Southerner and a lawyer who had earned the trust of livestock raisers — and the enmity of the meat companies — by representing farmers in lawsuits aimed at companies such as Tyson Foods," Bishop writes. Butler promised ranchers and farmers he would "get out in the countryside" to better understand the "imbalance of power" they faced. At the Organization for Competitive Markets meeting, he said he would take testimony from hog, poultry and cattle raisers and "protect them if meat buyers objected."
He proposed regulations in 2010 that would have given farmers and ranchers more power when dealing with large meat-processing companies. The reforms would have made it easier to sue meat packers and provided poultry raisers more protections and transparency in dealings with meatpackers. The administration collected more than 60,000 comments during an extended 18-month comment period that allowed opposition against the regulations to grow. Last November, Congress prevented USDA from funding the proposed rules, and USDA only adopted a small portion of the regulations.
Fred Stokes, president of the Organization for Competitive Markets, told Bishop that Butler's proposed rules "raised our hopes and expectations and then let us down. Corporate influence and politics have prevailed. Independent family farmers and ranchers remain alone and unprotected." Bill Bullard, head of the cattlemen's organization R-CALF, said Butler followed through on his promise to protect independent farmers and ranchers, but the clout of the meatpacking industry "proved too great," forcing the administration to lose resolve. (Read more)