Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) efforts to implement the Packers and Stockyards Act, focusing on: (1) the number and status of investigations conducted by the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) in response to complaints and concerns about anticompetitive activity involving the marketing of cattle and hogs; and (2) factors that affect GIPSA's ability to investigate concerns about anticompetitive practices.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Agriculture||To improve GIPSA's investigations of concerns about anticompetitive practices, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop a teamwork approach for investigations with GIPSA's economists and OGC's attorneys working together to identify violations of the law. Also, improve GIPSA's investigation processes and practices by adopting methods and guidance similar to DOJ's and FTC's for selecting, planning, conducting, and reviewing investigations. In doing so, consult with the Attorney General and the Chairman of FTC on investigation management, operations, and case development processes.|
|Department of Agriculture||To improve GIPSA's investigations of concerns about anticompetitive practices, the Secretary of Agriculture should determine the number of OGC attorneys that are needed for USDA's OGC to participate in GIPSA's investigations and, as needed, assign attorneys to lead or participate in these investigations. Also, provide for senior GIPSA and OGC officials to review the progress of investigations at main decision points and provide feedback, guidance, and approval of investigations as they progress. In addition, ensure that legal specialists are used effectively by providing them with leadership and supervision by USDA's OGC attorneys and ensure GIPSA has the economic talents it requires by considering whether to modify the GS grade structure for GIPSA's economists.|
|Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration||The Administrator, GIPSA, should provide industry participants and Congress with clarifications of GIPSA's views on competitive activities by reporting publicly on changing business practices in the cattle and hog industries and identifying market operations or activities that appear to raise concerns under the Packers and Stockyards Act.|