With prices for meat and poultry soaring, the White House unveiled a $1 billion plan aimed at jump-starting more competition in the industry and bringing down costs to consumers.
As part of the plan announced Monday, the White House said the Department of Agriculture will provide up to $375 million in grants for independent processing plant projects, $275 million in partnership with lenders to provide loans and other support to independent processors to increase their access to capital, and $100 million for workforce training for meat and poultry processing jobs.
In addition, the plan calls for $100 million to reduce overtime inspection costs at smaller processing plants and $50 million for technical assistance and research and development for meat and poultry processing. Money for the plan will come from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was passed by Congress and signed into law last March.
The administration of President Joe Biden targeted the meat industry last year as an example of “dominant corporations in uncompetitive markets taking advantage of their market power to raise prices while increasing their own profit margins.” In December it said that meat prices were the single largest contributor to the rising cost of food people consume at home, with beef, pork, and poultry price increases making up a quarter of the overall increase in food-at-home prices in November.
Beef and veal prices soared 20.9% in the 12 months ending in November, while pork jumped 16.8% and poultry rose 8.4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ consumer prices report.
“When dominant middlemen control so much of the supply chain, they can increase their own profits at the expense of both farmers—who make less—and consumers—who pay more,” the White House said in a statement.
The administration has also pledged this year to strengthen rules to prevent abuses by meatpackers and processors and to issue new “Product of USA” labeling standards so consumers have a better idea of where their meat is raised and processed. It has also launched a joint initiative to better coordinate efforts between the Justice and Agriculture departments with a new portal for reporting potentially unfair and anticompetitive practices in the agricultural sector.
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