The “cowgirl superstar” whose life story won a boatload of Emmys is now speaking out about changes to livestock marketing rules that she says will have negative consequences for animal welfare.

Changes to the livestock procurement rules could mean animals will be mistreated, says Colorado State University Animal Science Professor Temple Grandin.

She has filed comments with USDA on the letterhead of her Fort Collins, CO-based Grandin Livestock Handling Systems Inc. and wrote a guest column in yesterday’s Huffington Post.

Grandin, who turned her autism into an asset as an animal welfare expert and became the subject of an Emmy winning HBO movie, said the proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rules will “subject old breeding animals to additional stressful long distance transport.”

“If packers are prohibited from purchasing or receiving livestock from another packer or packer-affiliated company, the following bad situations will occur:

“Some old breeding sows owned by a packer or packer-affiliated company may have to be shipped much longer distances to the packer’s own plants, instead of going to a more local sausage plant,”  said Grandin in her comment letter to USDA.

“The other bad alternative is that packer-owned breeding stock may have to be sold through independent dealers.  This would subject older, frail animals to the additional stress of being unloaded and then reloaded on an independent dealer’s premises.

“Research clearly shows that livestock that are moved through auction markets have more bruises (Hoffman et. Al., 1998; Weeks et al., 2002).

“This is due to the extra handling to unload and then reload the livestock.

“I am a big proponent of specialized niche markets where a producer is paid a premium for raising animals to a particular specification such as high welfare, or other specialized markets.

“It would greatly harm these small specialized programs if paperwork becomes too difficult, ” Grandin added.

With the GIPSA rules, the Obama Administration is attempting to change the market relationship between livestock producers and the meatpackers.  It would force meatpackers to justify the extra premiums paid to some producers.

The rule changes are hotly contested in rural America, creating something of a 21st Century range war among cattlemen.  Instead of six shooters, however, they are using email, blogs, and websites to fight for and against the GIPSA rule changes.

Grandin’s opposition will likely influence other animal welfare activists and organizations to weigh in on GIPSA.   There is still time as the comment period has been extended to Nov. 22.

But more holdups on GIPSA beyond that do not seem likely.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack just turned down 115 members of Congress who want GIPSA put aside until an economic analysis is completed on the new rule.

Vilsack says an economic analysis is not needed.