Executive order supports agricultural industries
On July 9, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to promote competition in the American economy. A White House press release shares, “For decades, corporate consolidation has been accelerating. In over 75 percent of U.S. industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did 20 years ago, and this is true across healthcare, financial services, agriculture and more.”
The executive order includes 72 initiatives – spanning more than a dozen federal agencies – to address competition in the economy. Direct to agriculture, the order’s purpose is to empower family farms and increase farm income by strengthening the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) tools in agricultural markets.
Agricultural market focus
“The markets for seeds, equipment, feed and fertilizer are dominated by just a few large companies, meaning family farmers and ranchers now have to pay more for inputs,” reads the White House release. “Consolidation also limits farmers’ and ranchers’ options for selling their products, meaning they get less when they sell their produce and meat – even as prices rise – at the grocery store.”
The first action sparked by the order is the direction to USDA to consider issuing new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act to, “make it easier for farmers to bring and win claims, stopping chicken processors from exploiting and underpaying chicken farmers and adopt anti-retaliation practices for farmers who speak out against bad practices.”
Next, USDA is directed to consider new rules to define which meat products are able to hold “Product of USA” labels, an ongoing issue to ensure consumers have accurate and transparent labels and to support U.S. producers. In addition, the order commits $500 million to expanding processing capacity in the beef industry.
Third, the order directs the USDA to develop a plan to “increase opportunities for farmers to access markets and receive a fair return, including supporting alternative food distribution systems like farmers’ markets, and developing standards and labels so consumers can choose to buy products that treat farmers fairly.”
Last, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is encouraged to limit equipment manufacturers from restricting the ability to use independent repair shops or compete repairs at home.
In response to the executive order, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane shared, “We thank President Biden and Secretary Vilsack for the leadership and swift action they’ve shown on some of the top issues impacting our producers, including ‘Product of the USA’ labeling, and grants to expand regional, independent processing capacity.”
Lane continued, “The executive order is a vital step toward securing a steady beef supply chain and increasing opportunities for profitability for our producers.”
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) President Brooke Miller said, “USCA applauds President Biden for hearing the calls from cattle country regarding increased consolidation in the U.S. cattle industry, and then issuing his own call for prompt action within his administration.”
“This executive order comes just weeks after USCA Vice President Justin Tupper testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee on the detrimental effects of a U.S. cattle and beef industry controlled by just four major meatpackers, two of which are foreign-owned and operated,” Miller continued. “USCA’s testimony was loud and clear – the Big Four meatpackers have held their thumb on the scales for far too long, tilting the playing field to their advantage and forcing more and more independent cattle producers out of business.”
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Policy Director Eric Deeble noted, “NSAC commends USDA for it’s commitment of $500 million to help expand meat processing capacity by strengthening tools to empower small- and medium-scale operators. For far too long, we have witnessed how inadequate competition stifles economic growth and innovation throughout the agricultural supply chain.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.