Vilsack announces grants for expanded meat, poultry processing capacity
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced that the Agriculture Department will make $500 million in grants, loans and technical assistance to expand meat and poultry processing capacity.
At a news conference at a butcher shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Vilsack said, “The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive disruption for growers, food workers, and consumers alike. It exposed a food system that was rigid, consolidated, and fragile.”
“Meanwhile, those growing, processing and preparing our food are earning less each year in a system that rewards size over all else,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“To shift the balance of power back to the people, USDA will invest in building more, better, and fairer markets for producers and consumers alike. The investments USDA will make in expanding meat and poultry capacity, along with restoration of the Packers and Stockyards Act, will begin to level the playing field for farmers and ranchers.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the food system so it is more resilient to shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds. I am confident USDA’s investments in expanded capacity will spur millions more in leveraged funding from the private sector and state and local partners as our efforts gain traction across the country.”
Vilsack noted that the announcement is tied to President Biden’s executive order on competition issued Friday.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta praised USDA’s announcement.
“The Justice Department commends the USDA for today’s step toward spurring new entry and increasing competition in meatpacking,” Gupta said in a statement.
“USDA’s efforts align with the department’s commitment to vigorously enforcing the antitrust laws in the agriculture industry. The antitrust laws work best when paired with robust government policies to ensure that new competitors can successfully enter and challenge entrenched incumbents.”
At the news conference, Axne said, COVID provided an “aha” moment when it comes to weaknesses in the food chain, KMAland, an Iowa radio station reported.
“So many of us know in Iowa, or that part of the industry, where we were,” said Axne. “But for many Americans, they had no idea how our food supply chain was funneled into such a tight number of plants.”
Vilsack and Axne announced the USDA’s commitment during an appearance at Rustic Cuts Butcher Shop. Earlier, they visited the site of Cattlemen’s Heritage’s proposed $325 million beef processing plant in Mills County.
–The Hagstrom Report
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