J. (John) Dudley Butler, a longtime attorney from Mississippi, took over as administrator of the
Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) on May 11, 2009, following his appointment by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. During his tenure, he has created alarm among agribusiness interests for attempting to level the playing field between farmers and ranchers on one side and big stockyards and meat processors on the other. In particular, he has earned the enmity of the big four in the meat slaughterhouse and packing industry: Tyson Foods; JBS, Cargill and National Beef by investigating the possibility that they have been illegally or, at least, unfairly driven down cattle prices.
The son of George William Butler and Charlie Taylor Ming Butler, Butler grew up in Batesville, Mississippi.
He began his career serving as a legislative assistant for Democratic Governor Charles Clifton “Cliff” Finch, who served Mississippi from 1976-1980.
Finch was later named attorney and special assistant to the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, where he was responsible for legal work and proposed legislation. He also served as a liaison to the legislature and was responsible for various executive management duties assigned by the commissioner.
Although his official biography makes no mention of Butler attending university, he joined the Mississippi Bar in 1975 and has been an attorney for more than three decades and is a certified mediator and arbitrator He’s also been involved in cattle, timber, and farming operations, and in the 1980s and 1990s owned cattle in Wyoming and traded cattle in states including Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and Utah. In court, he represented poultry growers against processors. Before his appointment to head GIPSA, Butler was a lawyer in the Butler Farm and Ranch Law Group in Canton, Mississippi.
He has testified before Congress on matters involving agriculture and arbitration and served on a mandatory price reporting task force that led to the passage of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999.
Butler has served as a Mississippi bar commissioner, co-chairman of its Arbitration Committee and as a member of the Bench/Bar Liaison Committee of the Mississippi Bar.
When Butler took charge of GIPSA, he vowed to enforce the 1921 Packers and Stockyard Act, which was intended to protect livestock and poultry producers against unfair practices by stockyards, commission firms, livestock auctions, order buyers, livestock dealers, meat packers, meat brokers, meat wholesalers and distributors, among others. Under Butler’s guidance, GIPSA issued a controversial set of regulations in 2010 that, among other things, would provide poultry growers and cattle farmers with new protections against larger agribusiness operations, including making it easier for livestock raisers to sue industry giants that control the nation’s meat markets.
Butler contributed $300 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.