US – The United States Department of Agriculture is committing more than US$500 million to expand meat and poultry processing capacity, as part of efforts to increase competition in the market. 

The pledge comes after President Joe Biden enacted a new executive order aimed at cracking down on anti-competitive practices in major sector sectors of the economy including agriculture, healthcare, and technology.    

According to the USDA, key agricultural markets have become more concentrated and less competitive; with farmers and ranchers having fewer options to sell their products. 

In the new US$500 million Initiative, the department will support new meat and poultry processing facilities by providing capital through grants, loans and technical assistance. 

Through these initiatives, Biden’s administration hopes that there will be heightened competition in the meat processing sector, giving farmers, ranchers and consumers access to wider choices and better prices.   

Meanwhile, US$155 million will be invested into strengthening existing small and very small processing facilities to help them withstand Covid, compete in the marketplace, and reach more customers. 

“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,” said US Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack.  

“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.” 

A recent attack on the US operations of meat processing giant JBS also revealed just how dependent on a few meat players the US meat industry is. 

The attack which briefly disrupted operations at the meat processing giant sent shockwaves across the entire food chain with concerns rising over profound shortages of meat and poultry products in the country. 

Such a scenario that put the food security of the American population at risk could not have happened if the market wasn’t as consolidated as it is now. 

The new USDA initiative hopes to reverse this trend and make the meat industry more robust, resilient, and competitive. 

In addition, the USDA says it is holding meatpackers accountable by revitalizing the Packers and Stockyards Act and is issuing new rules on “Products of USA” labels. 

The review according to the USDA is aimed at ensuring US domestic farmers and ranchers will not have to compete with foreign companies that mislead consumers.  

Finally, the department is looking to develop plans to expand farmers’ and ranchers’ access to new markets and promote their ability to receive a fair return. 

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