White House Releases Meat Supply Chain Action Report
President Joe Biden and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack met with farmers and ranchers at the White House on Monday to announce their meat supply chain action plan. The plan identifies four core strategies: expansion of independent processing capacity, supporting workers at independent processors, strengthening rules to protect farmers and consumers, and promoting vigorous and fair enforcement of existing competition laws. That includes issuing new and stronger rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act and new “Product of the USA” labeling rules so “consumers can better understand where their meat comes from.” The action plan includes one billion dollars to expand independent processing capacity. The administration says the plan will create a more competitive, fair, resilient meat and poultry sector, with better earnings for producers and more choices and affordable prices for consumers.
Farm groups mostly welcomed Monday’s announcement. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says his organization, “appreciates the Biden administration’s continued work to ensure a fair and competitive meat processing system.” The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association also welcomed the action plan, which they say will bring transparency and true price discovery to the cattle marketplace and truth in labeling through the closure of the Product of the USA loophole. However, R-CALF USA in a statement Monday said they were skeptical about the sincerity of the administration’s commitment to the issue, calling on support for producers they say have been harmed by packer concentration.
As expected, the meatpacking industry is not on board with the plan. The North American Meat Institute claims government intervention will not help consumers or producers. NAMI President Julie Anna Potts says, “The Biden Administration continues to ignore the number one challenge to meat and poultry production: labor shortages.” Further, the organization claims the administration is “conveniently ignoring” the fact the beef industry has changed little for almost 30 years, and that prices reflect supply and demand in a healthy market.