Administration addresses impacts in meatpacking industry
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese discussed the impacts of a highly concentrated meatpacking sector on both American producers and consumers in a press briefing on Sept. 9.
An accompanying article from the White House, co-authored by Deese, shares, “The president understands families have been facing higher prices at the grocery store recently. Half of those recent increases are from meat prices – specifically, beef, pork and poultry.”
“While factors like increased consumer demand have played a role, the price increases are also driven by a lack of competition at a key bottleneck point in the meat supply chain: meat processing,” the authors note. “Just four large conglomerates control the majority of the market for each of these three products, and the data show these companies have been raising prices while generating record profits during the pandemic.”
In response, the Biden administration shared their plan to enforce anti-trust laws, boost competition in meatpacking and push back on what they call “pandemic profiteering that is hurting consumers, farmers and ranchers.” A White House press release shares the Biden administration, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), are working to resolve these issues with four actions.
First, the USDA is cracking down on illegal price-fixing, enforcing anti-trust laws and providing transparency. For example, USDA is conducting a joint investigation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) into price-fixing in the chicken processing area, which has already resulted in a $107 million guilty plea by numerous indictments. In addition, the USDA has announced a Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement policy.
Second, the administration is providing relief to those in the food supply chain who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
“USDA will invest $1.4 billion in pandemic assistance to provide relief to small producers, processors, distributors, farmers’ markets, seafood processors and food and farm workers,” the release states.
Third, USDA is advancing their response to the challenges producers face when affected by drought and extreme weather events, including the expansion of the Emergency Assistance for Livestock and Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish programs to include the cost of transporting feed.
Last, the administration shares, they are working with Congress to increase transparency in the cattle market.
“The administration is encouraged to see bipartisan legislation by Sens. Tester (D-MT), Fischer (R-NE), Grassley (R-IA), Wyden (D-OR) and others that seek to improve price discovery in cattle markets and facilitate actual negotiation of prices between livestock producers and packers,” reads the White House article.
“All together, these actions will help build a food system that works for the American people above all else,” the brief shares. “This will make the food system more equitable, more competitive, transparent and more distributed and resilient against shocks. In turn, it will increase farmers’ and ranchers’ earnings, deliver greater value to workers and offer consumers affordable, healthy food produced closer to home.”
U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) President Brooke Miller comments, “To see the need for increased competition in the U.S. cattle marketplace rise to the White House level is a testament to the many, many agricultural producer and consumer voices who have been advocating for change.”
He continues, “COVID-19 highlighted what we already knew to be true – a lack of transparency and true price discovery hurts independent producers and processors and inflates prices for beef at the retail counter.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.