WASHINGTON — “I am proud of USDA’s work in coordination with the White House Competition Council over the last year to learn from the pandemic and start to add resiliency and more choices for both producers and consumers in the middle of the food supply chain. Far too many companies have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to do more than pass along higher costs, but also to expand profit margins in these concentrated markets. Supporting independent processors and modernizing and reinvigorating enforcement will increase competition, curtail bad actors, and lead to fairer prices for farmers, ranchers, and consumers.”
Interest in programs aimed at increasing competition in the food supply chain is surging in rural communities. The Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program, which provides grants to expand independent meat and poultry processing, received nearly two and a half times the interest than there are funds available. That equates to more than 300 applications for over $360 million in grants that represent over $1.8 billion in total investments to add meat and poultry capacity, resiliency and competition. Additional awards are expected to be announced later this summer.
USDA’s multipronged approach includes investing directly in key sectors with limited competition including food processing and fertilizer production; working with the Department of Transportation and White House Port Envoy to call out ocean and rail carriers; partnering with the Department of Justice to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to report potential antitrust violations; providing technical assistance and support for Congress as it considers actions like the Ocean Shipping Reform Act or improved transparency in cattle markets; and updating and modernizing USDA’s enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.