In this file:


·         Ag secretary ready for round two on meatpacking reforms

·         Sec. Vilsack Discusses Overshadowed Parts of White House’s Meat, Poultry Plan, Responds to Backlash

·         USDA and DOJ Issue Shared Principles Focusing on Antitrust Enforcement in Agriculture



Ag secretary ready for round two on meatpacking reforms


Tom Lutey, Missoulian (Montana)

Jan 6, 2022


You could say Monday wasn’t Tom Vilsack’s first rodeo.


President Joe Biden was, figuratively, saddling up to ride to the rescue of both ranchers and consumers left short on cash by a meat packing industry in which four big players control more than 85% of the market.


Vilsack, who was also Agriculture secretary under Barack Obama, had done this before, when the effort was bucked into the dirt faster than you can say reelection.


But this time, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack is optimistic the outcome will be different, if for no other reason than Biden having $1 billion to expand the number of independent meatpackers competing against the industry’s big four: Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS and National Beef packing.


The theory goes something like this: If there’s another buyer in the auction barn, there will be competition that will naturally increase the price paid to ranchers for cattle. The plan, announced this week, drew comments from Republican and Democratic politicians in Montana, signaling they wanted market reform, too. Livestock sales were worth about $1.5 billion to the state economy in 2020, but that number was $100 million lower than sales from the previous year, as supply problems hit ranchers and consumers squarely in their wallets. 


“With the American rescue plan, we've got the resources to actually get something done on the financing side, and we're putting the finishing touches on some rules and regulations that will be forthcoming in 2022 to strengthen enforcement,” Vilsack told the Lee Montana Newspapers on Wednesday.


much more



Sec. Vilsack Discusses Overshadowed Parts of White House’s Meat, Poultry Plan, Responds to Backlash


By Ashley Davenport, Hoosier Ag Today (IN)

Jan 7, 2022


he White House’s first move of 2022 was made for the meat and poultry industry. The Biden administration released its action plan earlier this week to make the meat and poultry supply chain fairer, more competitive, and more resilient.


While the highlight of the plan is $1 billion in funding for expansion of independent processing, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says that there are other parts that have been overshadowed.


“In this comprehensive effort, we’re also addressing the workforce element of building greater capacity,” he says. “We’ve heard from folks on the ground that it’s great you’re providing capital, but we also need people. This program the president announced earlier this week is also trying to address the people part of this by creating a fund that will allow us to partner with community colleges, unions, co-ops and other organizations that are involved in worker training to be able to train our workforce.”


He says innovation is also part of this initiative.


“Small- and mid-sized processing facilities don’t by their nature—their budgets have a lot of money that they can put into new technologies and innovative solutions,” he says. “The big folks obviously have resources to do that. We’ve also got a component of this program that addresses that issue as well.”


The American Farm Bureau has voiced its appreciation of the plan. On the other hand, the North American Meat Institute says that producers and consumers will not be benefitting from this. Vilsack says this response isn’t surprising...


more, including links, audio [2:04 min.]



USDA and DOJ Issue Shared Principles Focusing on Antitrust Enforcement in Agriculture


Brian Eyink and Connie Potter, Hogan Lovells

Jan 7, 2022


USDA and DOJ have announced shared principles to drive antitrust enforcement in the meat and poultry supply chains.


On January 3, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a set of joint principles intended to drive antitrust enforcement in the meat and poultry supply chains. The announcement comes as part of a broader and prolonged effort by the Biden Administration to focus on competition in the meatpacking sector specifically and in the national economy more broadly. For example, the Administration has cited meat and poultry prices as driving food inflation and has identified market concentration in the meatpacking industry as an area of focus. For example, the Administration has characterized the top 4 beef, pork, and chicken processors as controlling over 50% and as much as 85% of their respective markets.1 At the forefront of these discussions are commitments to strengthening the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA), the 100-year-old law that designed to protect against unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices in the meat markets.


In their announcement, USDA and DOJ announced a list of joint principles that underscore their departments’ continuing efforts to protect farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers and growers from unfair and anticompetitive practices by enforcing federal competition laws like the PSA. As stated in a USDA press release,2 the principles are as follows:


·         Farmers, ranchers, and other producers and growers deserve the benefits of free and fair competition. The Justice Department and USDA therefore are prioritizing matters impacting competition in agriculture.


·         The agencies will jointly develop within 30 days a centralized, accessible process for farmers, ranchers, and other producers and growers to submit complaints about potential violations of the antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act. The agencies will protect the confidentiality of the complainants if they so request to the fullest extent possible under the law and also commit to supporting relevant whistleblower protections, including newly-applicable protections for criminal antitrust complainants against unlawful retaliation.


·         The agencies will work together to promote effective information sharing and case cooperation, including processes the agencies will follow to efficiently address a complaint.


·         Both agencies commit to vigorously enforce the laws that protect farmers, ranchers, and other producers and growers from unfair, deceptive, discriminatory, and anticompetitive practices. As appropriate, USDA will make reports or refer potential violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act to the Justice Department to better enable its Antitrust Division to pursue meritorious competition-related cases and to allow the agencies to collaborate on issues of mutual interest. Additionally, the Justice Department and USDA will work together to identify and highlight areas where they believe Congress can help modernize statutory frameworks.


On the same day, the White House hosted a roundtable event with farmers, ranchers, an independent poultry processor, and Cabinet members to reemphasize its commitment to boosting competition and reducing prices in the meat-processing industry.3 At the event, Secretary Vilsack tied into this effort several rulemakings that USDA has earlier announced as being in the works, although proposed rules have not yet been issued:


·         USDA is in the process of developing three proposed rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) to better protect poultry and hog farmers and cattle ranchers from unfair and anti-competitive practices in meat markets. The proposed rules revive rulemakings initiated during the Obama Administration to identify actions that USDA views as violating the PSA, regulate poultry grower contracting (often referred to as tournament systems), and codifying the department’s view that parties need not demonstrate competitive harm to bring an action under the PSA.4


·         USDA plans to issue new regulations governing “Product of USA” claims for meat and poultry products.


To complement these efforts, the Biden Administration announced it seeks to improve resiliency in meat and poultry supply chains with a $1 billion investment to expand independent processing capacity and support workers and the independent processor industry.5


Next steps ...


References ...


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