The Biden-Harris Administration announced it will be investing $1 billion to improve conditions in the meat processing sector. Funding will be allocated from the American Rescue Plan to aid independent meat and poultry producers. President Biden is meeting virtually with farmers, ranchers, and independent processors to hear industry concerns. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick Garland will also be participating in the meeting. The White House indicates that the funding is aimed at providing “better earnings for producers and more choices and affordable prices for consumers.”
The funding is part of the Action Plan for a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain. In an effort to expand independent processing capacity, USDA will be providing $375 million in grants for processing plant projects. A request for proposals will be announced sometime in Spring. USDA will also be deploying $275 million in partnership with lenders to provide better financial support for industry members. Applications from potential partners are expected to be accepted sometime in Summer. Additionally, $100 million will be made available for workforce training and $50 million will be devoted to technical assistance and research and development. To help smaller operations keep pace with demand, USDA will be providing $100 million to reduce overtime inspection costs.
The Action Plan is meant to serve as a comprehensive approach to address rising consumer prices for meat. Back in December, the White House pointed to consolidation in the meat processing sector as being the central cause for price inflation. November figures show that prices for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs increased 13 percent from the previous year. At the same time, overall food cost inflation grew by less than seven percent. Industry groups have pointed to other issues besides consolidation being responsible for rising food prices. The North American Meat Institute points to rising costs of inputs and fuel, coupled with unprecedented demand, as pushing consumer prices higher.