July 9, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Laura Zaks, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
RELEASE: NSAC Applauds USDA Announcement of $500 Million for Expanded Meat and Poultry Processing Capacity
Washington, DC, July 9, 2021 – Today the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) applauds the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement of $500 million in additional funding to bolster small- and medium-scale meat processing plants, and additional actions to level the playing field for farmers and ranchers.
“National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) commends USDA for its commitment of $500 million to help expand meat processing capacity by strengthening tools to empower small- and medium-scale operators,” said Eric Deeble, NSAC Policy Director. “For far too long we have witnessed how inadequate competition stifles economic growth and innovation throughout the agricultural supply chain,” Deeble added.
The announcement from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack arrives on the heels of President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, signed earlier today, signaling a whole of government effort to address concentration and consolidation in US markets. The Executive Order includes 72 initiatives to address a variety of competition issues that permeate the US economy, several of which we are pleased to see could have a far-reaching impact on agriculture.
“This announcement is a significant step in the right direction, given that in recent decades agricultural markets have become increasingly concentrated. Just four corporations are responsible for 65 percent of sales in the global agrochemicals market, 50 percent of the seed market, and 45 percent of farm equipment sales. In the US, just four companies represent 73 percent of beef processing, 67 percent of pork processing, 54 percent of chicken processing, and 45 percent of the retail grocery market. This concentration hurts farmers and consumers and while returning maximum profits to corporations,” commented Deeble.
The USDAs commitment of $500 to expand meat processing capacity in the form of grants to small- and medium-sized operations developed as part of a process soliciting comments and stakeholder input on USDA’s strategy, and NSAC looks forward to continuing this dialogue with the USDA. NSAC is also appreciative that USDA implemented the small processor fee relief authorized in the The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, today.
NSAC is also pleased to see that USDA will issue new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act. As directed in the Executive Order, this new rule will make it easier for farmers to bring and win claims, stopping chicken processors from exploiting and underpaying chicken farmers, and adopting anti-retaliation protections for farmers who speak out about bad practices. NSAC also applauds similar directives to issue new rules that will define when meat can bear the “Product of USA” label. This will ensure greater transparency in consumer labeling and help farmers earn a fairer price for their products. The directives also include plans to augment access to markets for farmers, including supporting alternative food distribution systems like farmers markets and developing standards and labels.
“NSAC is committed to leveling the playing field for sustainable farmers and small- and medium-scale food processors by bringing grassroots perspectives to the table and pushing back against the dominance of big business. Now is the time for serious reform to restore fairness, transparency, and competition in agriculture and address concentration and consolidation, the structural root of many challenges that farmers, ranchers, and food processors face. NSAC believes that increased funding for grants towards technical assistance, infrastructure, and professional development are also critical pathways for a more sustainable, equitable agricultural sector,” stated Deeble.
USDA also released today a report directed by the 2018 Farm Bill which was conducted by Oregon State University’s Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network in partnership with NSAC, about the effectiveness of existing outreach, guidance, tools, and responsiveness to small and very small processing plants. NSAC is excited to continue dialogues around the report with both USDA and small processors across the country to ensure USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service continues to support and provide education, guidance, and assistance to small processors. The report is available here.
For a deeper analysis of the impacts of consolidation and concentration in the agriculture industry on farmers and the broader food system, as well as a path forward, read NSAC’s two-part blog series by NSAC Policy Associate, Billy Hackett:
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more: https://sustainableagriculture.net/
Categories: Carousel, Competition & Anti-trust, Food Safety, Grants and Programs, Implementation & Rule-making, Local & Regional Food Systems, Marketing and Labeling, Press Releases, Sustainable Livestock