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Montana Ag Network: Biden Administration takes on meat packers

Posted at 1:24 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 19:13:53-05

This week President Biden laid out his plan to expand competition in the meatpacking industry.

During a roundtable discussion with cabinet members and a handful of producers, the president addressed meatpacker consolidation in today’s industry.

“In too many industries, a handful of giant companies dominate the market,” said Biden. “And too often, they use their power to squeeze out smaller competitors and stifle new entrepreneurs, making our economy less dynamic and giving themselves free rein to raise prices, reduce options for consumers, or exploit workers. The meat industry is a textbook example on the price side. Four big corporations control more than half the markets in beef, pork, and poultry.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) president-elect Don Schiefelbein says expanding packer capacity is critical to restoring producer profitability.

“If you look at the market situation and how best to get most of the dollars back to the cow/calf sector it's by increasing market throughput,” said Schiefelbein. “So packer capacity is everything.”

The president says capitalism without competition is exploitation and that’s exactly what’s happening now in the meat industry.

“That’s what we’re seeing in meat and poultry — in those industries — now,” said Biden. “Small, independent farmers and ranchers are being driven out of business — sometimes businesses that have been around for generations. It strikes at their dignity, their respect, and the family legacies so many of them carry for generations after generation.”

The Biden Administration’s plan includes four core strategies for creating a more competitive, fair, resilient meat and poultry sector, with better earnings for producers and more choices and affordable prices for consumers.

Included is $1 billion for expanding independent processing capacity, supporting workers at independent processors, strengthening rules to protect farmers and consumers, and promoting vigorous and fair enforcement of the existing competition laws.

Most agricultural organizations welcomed the action plan announced by the White House. However, the meatpacker industry disagrees.