Two years into the Obama administration, one of its recurring themes has been regulatory overreach. The Environmental Protection Agency is looking to implement cap-and-trade after Congress failed to do so. The Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board and National Mediation Board—the three bodies which oversee union-employer relations—have overturned legislation, rescinded rulemakings, and reinterpreted eighty-year-old statues in order to facilitate unionization for Big Labor.
The latest iteration of this unfortunate narrative is the appointment of trial lawyer J. Dudley Butler to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the subsequent self-serving regulations he implemented. If you missed our previous posts (here, here, and here) about Butler, this should catch you up to speed:
Mr. Butler is now serving as the Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), an agency of the USDA tasked with regulating the trade of poultry, livestock, and other agricultural products.
Prior to his appointment, Mr. Butler worked as a trial lawyer in the Canton, Mississippi “Butler Farms and Ranch Law Group.” His specialty was suing the poultry industry for alleged violations of USDA regulations; these suits met with limited success. In May of 2009, he was picked by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to head the very same agency responsible for those regulations: GIPSA. In a move that should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, Butler has taken his new position as a mandate to make his once and future profession a far more lucrative one.
While Mr. Butler’s appointment raises all kinds of ethical issues—ATR called for him to resign—more important is the impact of his regulations on Middle America. The American Meat Institute calculated that the Mr. Butler’s new regulations will result in 104,000 people losing their jobs and would reduce national GDP by $14.0 billion. The majority of these layoffs will be in the Midwest and rural communities where unemployment is disproportionately high.
It should come as no surprise that 115 Congressional Representatives from rural districts signed a letter to the USDA saying that new regulations were onerous and went too far. Similar measures were taken to prevent regulatory overreach when earlier this year Senator Murkowski proposed SJ Res 26 to reprimand the EPA. Legislators have spent unprecedented amounts of time and effort this year pushing back against unaccountable federal regulators.
Given our current economic stagnation, the last thing the American economy needs is to be handcuffed by regulators beholden to special interests. Given Mr. Butler’s history and the weight of his decisions, he is thoroughly unfit to serve the USDA.