Farmers Union: Success of Biden move to add meatpacking competition depends on rules


By: Perry Beeman, Iowa Capital Dispatch

July 15, 2021


Farmers need to push to make sure federal rules to improve competition in meatpacking don’t stall, a National Farmers Union official told Iowans Thursday.


Mike Stranz, the national organization’s vice president of advocacy, told Iowa Farmers Union members they need to push the U.S. Department of Agriculture to quickly write the rules needed to lessen the influence of four major meatpacking companies on the market.


“This is a momentous move that we saw on Friday, but there’s a lot of work we need to do as farmer union members and as concerned citizens,” Stranz said of Biden’s new executive order. “We’re going to have to keep pushing these rules forward. There is a whole process ahead.”


Stranz said President Barack Obama worked on the issue after a national series of meetings in 2009 with USDA and Justice Department officials. Obama proposed a rule to promote competition.


“It caught a lot of heat from the packers and the processors and the integrators who pushed back against it,” predicting higher costs for consumers and a string of lawsuits, Stranz said.


That rulemaking was suspended. A second rule proposed late in Obama’s administration was shelved by President Trump.


Biden issued an executive order last week aimed at improving competition in a number of industries, including agriculture. The power of the country’s four dominant meatpackers — Tyson, National Beef, Cargill and JBS — has turned into a huge political issue. Those companies have posted solid profits amid high retail beef prices. At the same time, farmers have struggled to make money on raising beef cattle.


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