Ag Alert Jan. 12, 2022

Plan to help small meat producers is drawing praise American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall is applauding a Biden administration plan that seeks to help small meat and poultry proces- sors and enhance America’s food supply chain by promoting more competition. “AFBF appreciates the Biden admin- istration’s continued work to ensure a fair and competitive meat processing system,” Duvall said in a statement. “We must get to the bottom of why farmers and ranchers continue to receive low payments while families across America endure rising meat prices.” Duvall was responding to President Biden’s Jan. 3 announcement of new reg- ulations for U.S. meatpackers to increase market opportunities and boost regional livestock farmers andmeat producers. According to aWhite House fact sheet, fourmajor companies control 85%of beef productionand54%ofpoultryproduction. The administration says their market dominance is allowing major meat pro- ducers to pay farmers less, even as meat prices are increasing. It noted that cattle ranchers today get 39 cents for every dol- lar spent onbeef, compared to60 cents 50 years ago, and hog farmers get 19 cents per dollar compared to 40 to 60 cents. “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism; it’s exploitation,” Biden said in a virtual meeting last week with farmers and ranchers, in which he dis- cussed the stricter rules for livestock purchasing and meat labeling. “That’s what we’re seeing in poultry and those industries now. Small independent farmers and ranchers are being driven out of business.”

Also Jan. 3, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vi lsack and Attorney General Merrick Garland jointly announced that they would employ antitrust laws and the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act to enforce fair competition in the market, safeguard farmers and ranchers and pro- tect consumers. Aspartof thateffort, theU.S.Department of Agriculture and the JusticeDepartment will create a portal for farmers, ranchers, producers and growers to submit com- plaints about potential violations of anti- trust laws. “Producers all across the country for too long have faced a marketplace that benefits a few large companies over those who are growing our food,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Thismeans that consumers are paying more and farmers, ranchers and producers see less of the profits.” He said the COVID-19 pandemic “only further disrupted these challenges across the supply chain, exposing a food system that was rigid, consolidated and fragile. “Antitrustandmarket regulatoryenforce- ment is essential to enabling the compe- tition necessary to transformour concen- trated supply chains in favor of diversified, resilient food systems,”Vilasack said. In his statement, Garland said, “The Justice Department takes very serious- ly the responsibility we share with our partners across the federal government to protect consumers, safeguard compe- tition and ensure economic opportunity and fairness for all.” Duvall said he welcomed the admin- istration’s actions, saying, “Farmers and ranchers want a fair shake.” He saidmeasures including newprod- uct-labeling standards and the online portal to report competition law viola- tions “will go a long way to ensuring fair- ness in the industry” and “allow families tomakemorewell-informeddecisions at the grocery store.” “We are encouragedby the administra- tion’swillingness toworkwith lawmakers onboth sides of the aisle to improve price discovery in the cattle markets,” Duvall said. “We urge bipartisanship through- out this process. Securing fair prices for farmers and for families is a goal that transcends party lines.” In July, the USDA announced a $500 million program to provide grants, loans and technical assistance to aid in the creation of new meat and poultry pro- cessing businesses. In November, the USDA additionally announced $32 million in grants to help expand capacity at small poultry process- ing facilities, modernize equipment and meet packaging, labeling and food safety requirements. It said themeasure would help enhance market reach of local agri- cultural producers.

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10 Ag Alert January 12, 2022

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