President Biden today convened a round table with farmers, ranchers, an independent poultry processor and members of his cabinet to discuss the need for increased competition in beef, pork and poultry processing and the government’s plan of action for fairer, more competitive, and more more resilient supply chain for meat and poultry. The President, Secretary Vilsack, and Attorney General Garland outlined the steps the government is taking to expand processing options for farmers and ranchers, create fairer and more competitive markets, lower prices for consumers, and ensure farmers and ranchers have a fair one Price for your product.
The president highlighted the strong economy through 2022, stating that in accordance with its July Executive Order to Promote Competition in the American Economy, the government had focused on addressing the lack of competition in agricultural markets. He explained that only a small handful of companies control most of the beef, pork and poultry markets, which can put pressure on farmers and ranchers while raising prices for consumers. He also thanked the non-partisan members of Congress who are working together on legislation to increase transparency in the cattle market.
Secretary of State Vilsack announced details of the US government’s $ 1 billion investment in American Rescue Plan Funds to fund and support independent processing projects that provide farmers and ranchers with more and better options. He also outlined the Department of Agriculture’s commitment to working with the Department of Justice and other enforcement agencies, including new regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act and new regulations to protect consumers from confusion about whether products labeled “Product of USA” really are here did.
Attorney General Garland spoke about the Justice Department’s pledge to increase competition in all industries, including the agricultural sector, and to robustly and vigorously enforce federal laws. He outlined a new joint initiative with the Department of Agriculture to better coordinate state enforcement efforts between the two agencies, including the launch of a new joint portal within 30 days on which farmers and ranchers are concerned about possible breaches of the Clayton Act and Sherman Act or the Packers and Stockyards Act. Garland also described the department’s commitment to providing the best possible protection for whistleblowers.
Round table participants described how the lack of competition in the meat and poultry supply chain is affecting their business and life and the challenges they see as a few large companies dominate the processing markets. Farmers and ranchers explained that they are often at the mercy of a handful of buyers who determine the price they get, and that even when these conglomerates raise prices in grocery stores, they depress prices for farmers and ranchers, thereby depriving them of wealth rural communities and harm consumers.
The independent poultry processor also described the prevailing poultry production model, with large, integrated companies dictating the terms of restrictive contracts that leave producers little control over their own operations and burden them with debt, and how alternative business models and market structures can be supported by consumers, Serving workers and producers.
Attendees explained the startup costs and challenges of independent processing and marketing, and how USDA funding to support the food supply chain will help independent processors start, expand and grow – while creating more competition and options for producers and consumers.
Attorney General Garland urged attendees, as well as farmers and ranchers, to use the new shared web portal to report confidentially on possible anti-competitive practices and actions they were exposed to. President Biden concluded the meeting by reiterating the government’s commitment to the entire government to address competition issues across all industries. He thanked the participants for their hard work and feedback.
Click here to read the full fact sheet on the Government’s Plan of Action for a Fairer, More Competitive and Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain, and click here to learn about other initiatives by the Biden-Harris government to stimulate competition across the economy.
Participants at today’s meeting included:
Agriculture Minister Tom Vilsack
Attorney General Merrick Garland
Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council
Scott Blubaugh, President, Oklahoma Farmers Union
Kelsey Ducheneaux-Scott, Program Director, Intertribal Agriculture Council
Corwin Heatwole, CEO, Farmer Focus
Brent Johnson, President, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation
Handy Kennedy, Jr., owner, HK Farms