September 6, 2021
USDA must foster competition in meat and poultry processing, says NFU
The National Farmers Union (NFU) recently submitted formal comments to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in response to a request for information on "Investments and Opportunities for Meat and Poultry Processing Infrastructure."
In the wake of the July 9, 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, as well as the American Rescue Plan Act, USDA is redoubling its efforts to build a more diversified meat processing sector.
NFU comments noted that, while the act includes directives to provide funding for a more diverse marketplace, underlying competition issues will need to be addressed through enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and antitrust laws.
The comments by NFU president Rob Larew reiterated the need to strategically direct federal support towards enhancing resiliency and fostering competition in the meat and poultry processing sector.
"This idea has been a top priority for our members for decades," Larew wrote. "As NFU seeks to ensure that farm families and their communities are respected, valued and enjoy economic prosperity and social justice, we look forward to working with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on this issue.
"These investments are a critical component of (US) President (Joe) Biden’s Executive Order on competition and represent an important step forward in achieving a more diverse and secure food supply chain and agricultural economy. When COVID-19 brought disruptions to our livestock markets and food supply, the need for additional, diversified processing capacity became evident to policymakers and the general public."
The NFU's recommendations to USDA state the following:
- USDA must be mindful of the market environment in order to assure long-term success in diversifying the marketplace, recognising that processing sector concentration places extreme pressure on new entrants to the meat industry.
- USDA should emphasise producer-owned cooperative business structures when offering financial assistance to the development of new processing facilities.
- USDA should stop the sale of new or expanded processing facilities to the largest processors to prevent further consolidation and should similarly prohibit the purchase of these new facilities by foreign-controlled entities. Without caution and monitoring, there could be reductions in worker safety and increases in consolidation or foreign ownership of processing capacity;
- USDA should dedicate resources to helping smaller processing facilities have access to shared services in human resources management, compliance and training.
- The Poultry Site