"USCA commends the Biden-Harris Administration on this important first step towards addressing concentration in the meatpacking sector. We look forward to working with USDA leadership, including the newest advisor for Fair and Competitive Markets, to investigate illegal and anticompetitive practices in the cattle marketplace."

 

 

Biden Administration Sends Strong Message on Consolidation and Competition

 

Source: U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA)

Sep 10, 2021 

 

(WASHINGTON) – On Wednesday, the White House hosted a press briefing with Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese to discuss the impacts of a highly concentrated meatpacking sector for American producers and consumers.

 

In an accompanying article, titled Addressing Concentration in the Meat-Processing Industry to Lower Food Prices for American Families, the White House outlines how the Big Four meatpackers are generating record profits during the pandemic, at the expense of consumers, farmers, and ranchers.

 

United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) President Brooke Miller issued the following statement regarding the announcement:

 

“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. COVID-19 highlighted what we already knew to be true – that a lack of transparency and true price discovery hurts independent producers and processors, and inflates prices for beef at the retail counter.

 

"USCA commends the Biden-Harris Administration on this important first step towards addressing concentration in the meatpacking sector. We look forward to working with USDA leadership, including the newest advisor for Fair and Competitive Markets, to investigate illegal and anticompetitive practices in the cattle marketplace."

 

The Biden-Harris Administration and USDA are pledging to:

 

Taking strong actions to crack down on illegal price fixing, enforce antitrust laws, and bring more transparency to the meat-processing industry. USDA is conducting an ongoing joint investigation with the Department of Justice into price-fixing in the chicken-processing industry, which has already yielded a $107 million guilty plea by Pilgrim’s Pride and numerous other indictments. USDA has also announced a more robust Packers and Stockyards Act enforcement policy and new efforts to strengthen Packers and Stockyards Act rules, so that meat-processors can’t use their market dominance to abuse farmers and ranchers. And USDA is creating more transparency, with new market reports on what beef-processors pay, as well as new rules designed to ensure consumers get what they pay for when meat is labeled “Product of USA.”

 

Providing relief to small businesses and workers hurt by COVID, and creating a more competitive food supply chain. 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 impacted by COVID-19. This includes $700 million to reach small operations who have not received previous rounds of federal pandemic aid. USDA will also provide $700 million to states, tribes, and nonprofit organizations to distribute up to $600 per worker in relief payments directly to frontline farmworkers and meatpacking workers who incurred expenses preparing for, preventing exposure to, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA will also invest $500 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to support new competitive entrants to expand local and regional meat and poultry processing capacity. USDA will provide grants, loans, and technical assistance to create new meat and poultry processing capacity that will compete with the big guys, forcing them to lower prices and actually earn their business, and provide farmers and ranchers access to better choices and fairer prices in local and regional food systems.

 

Getting ahead of climate change related disruptions by supporting farmers and ranchers from the effects of extreme weather. Unprecedented drought and extreme weather events have brought new challenges for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers, on top of the historic challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To respond to the drought affecting farmers and ranchers across the West and Midwest, USDA will expand its Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) to include the cost of transporting feed, delivering much-needed relief to affected livestock producers.

 

Working with Congress to make cattle markets more transparent and fairer. Right now, meatpackers have outsized power in setting the prices for beef, which are often set in opaque contracts that lock independent livestock producers into prices that aren’t the product of free and fair negotiation. The Administration is encouraged to see bipartisan legislation by Senators Tester, Fischer, Grassley, Wyden, and others that seek to improve price discovery in the cattle markets—and facilitate actual negotiation of prices between livestock producers and packers. We look forward to working with Congress on these important issues, and we hope that they will also look for ways to ensure farmers and ranchers have fair access to meat-processing capacity.

 

uscattlemen.org