By Nathalie Voit
The White House released a statement on Jan. 3 vowing to spur competition in the meat-processing industry and support consumers.
As per President Joe Biden’s broader Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, the Biden administration will invest $1 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan to diversify the meat and poultry supply chain and expand choices for consumers.
The president met with farmers, ranchers, and independent processors virtually on Monday to discuss his administration’s plan for a “fairer, more competitive, and more resilient” meat and poultry sector.
According to the statement, just four large conglomerates control approximately 55-85% of the pork, beef, and poultry market.
“Over the last few decades, we’ve seen too many industries become dominated by a handful of large companies that control most of the business and most of the opportunities—raising prices and decreasing options for American families, while also squeezing out small businesses and entrepreneurs,” the White House said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will allocate $375 million towards new independent processing plant projects as part of the program. The USDA will also deploy up to $275 million in partnership with lenders to address the credit access gap and support small farmers. The agency has already deployed $100 million towards food processing and distribution infrastructure.
Additionally, the USDA will set aside $100 million for workforce training, $50 million for technical assistance and research and development, and $100 million to reduce overtime inspection costs for small independent processors.
The funds will be drawn from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill passed by Congress last March.
The announcement comes as consumer prices rise to their highest levels in nearly four decades.
The Consumer Price Index surged 6.8% over twelve months in November, its highest reading since 1982. Grocery prices followed suit, climbing 6.4% in November to record their highest 12-month increase since December 2008.
Beef prices, in particular, have skyrocketed since last year, jumping 20.9% year-over-year in November, data from the Department of Labor found. Meat and poultry prices are now the single largest contributor “to the rising cost of food people consume at home,” the White House said.
The plan is expected to increase income for farmers and lower prices for consumers.