Biden administration unveils actions to lower rising meat prices amid inflation concerns

Biden administration unveils actions to lower rising meat prices amid inflation concerns
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The Biden administration announced new actions aimed at lowering the costs of beef, pork, and poultry, which account for more than 50% of the price increases people have seen at grocery stores in the past year.

"All together, these actions will help build a food system that works for the American people above all else," National Economic Council Director Brian Deese wrote in a statement announcing the moves. "They will support families, farmers, and workers while preventing bad actors in the supply chain from lining their pockets and getting further ahead without accountability. This will make the food system fairer and more equitable, more competitive and transparent, and more distributed and resilient against shocks. In turn, it will increase farmers’ and ranchers’ earnings, deliver greater value to workers, and offer consumers affordable, healthy food produced closer to home."

BIDEN'S INFLATION WOES PERSIST WITH PRODUCTION STOPPAGES AT 'BIG THREE' CAR COMPANIES

The White House estimates that, since December 2020, average grocery store prices for beef, pork, and poultry have risen by 14%, 12.2%, and 6.6% respectively. The administration is aiming to reverse those trends by focusing on these four specific areas:

  • Addressing illegal price fixing, enforce antitrust laws and bringing transparency to the meat-processing industry

  • Providing relief to small businesses and workers impacted by the pandemic

  • Providing relief and support to farmers and ranchers suffering from the effects of extreme weather

  • Calling Congress to make cattle markets more transparent and fairer

To meet those goals, the Department of Agriculture and Justice Department are currently carrying out a price-fixing investigation aimed at the poultry-processing industry, which has produced $107 million in payouts through a number of indictments, according to the White House's announcement.

Earlier this summer, the United States Department of Agriculture announced it would issue new regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act, which the administration says will make it easier for farmers to bring claims, help chicken farmers from being exploited and underpaid by chicken processors, and implement anti-retaliation protections for those who speak out about bad practices.

The USDA will also consider new rules about “product of the USA” labels and how it determines which meats can bear that phrase.

Also earlier this year, more than two dozen Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate signed a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland contending that “the anticompetitive practices” in the meatpacking industry today “are unambiguous.”

USDA is also directing $1.4 billion in pandemic relief specifically for "small producers, processors, distributors, farmers markets, seafood processors, and food and farm workers impacted by COVID-19." That sum will be split into two separate, $700 million tranches. One will go to states, tribes, and nonprofit organizations on the condition it be handed out in $600 direct payments to front-line farm and meatpacking workers. The second tranche will be directed to businesses and other small operations that did not receive past pandemic aid through the government's business relief programs.

Finally, USDA is reinvesting $500 million in American Rescue Plan funds into a new grant program that will "support new competitive entrants to expand local and regional meat and poultry processing capacity."

"If you look at the market, the thing that is striking across beef, poultry, and pork is significant consolidation in those industries," Deese told reporters at Wednesday's White House briefing. "The market is controlled by the top four producers in those industries, so when you see the level of consolidation and the increase in prices, it raises a concern about companies that are driving price increases in a way that hurts consumers who are going to the grocery store, and also isn't benefiting the actual producers, the farmers and the ranchers, that are growing the product."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack specifically noted that pandemic fallout is hitting the industry at the same time as severe weather, including hurricanes and wildfires.

"For that reason, we've looked at a number of steps to provide assistance to deal with the drought, and today we identified another way in which we could provide help and assistance. Historically, we've always provided resources to farmers to be able to pay for the cost of hauling water to their facilities," he added at the briefing.

Wednesday's announcement comes as both congressional lawmakers and private businesses have suggested the current inflationary run might last for years.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin recently wrote an op-ed claiming that he would not vote for President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion reconciliation infrastructure package over inflation concerns.

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Meanwhile, the top three North American automakers all announced production stoppages in the past week due to semiconductor shortages, which both White House and out of government economists estimate account for more than half of the Consumer Price Index increases from 2020 to 2021.

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Tags: News, USDA, National Economic Council, Inflation, Joe Biden, Jen Psaki, Department of Agriculture, Agriculture

Original Author: Christian Datoc, Zachary Halaschak

Original Location: Biden administration unveils actions to lower rising meat prices amid inflation concerns

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