U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) led 26 of their House colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to take additional steps to address the consolidation of the meat and poultry processing sector that has negatively impacted the ability for farmers and ranchers to get their product to market.
In a letter addressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, the Members applauded USDA’s recent announcement of a $500 million investment to expand capacity and increase competitiveness in the meat and poultry processing sector – while imploring the Administration to make additional efforts to support small and regional processing facilities across the country.
“For some farmers and ranchers right now, slaughter and processing dates must be booked up to two years in advance. Meanwhile, small processors continue to struggle with barriers to expansion like a lack of capital or financing options, workforce shortages, and an increasingly complex regulatory structure,” wrote the Members. “We encourage USDA to make investments that will provide leverage for producers at all levels of the supply chain.”
“The pandemic revealed the country’s highly consolidated meat processing sector creates vulnerabilities to supply,” said Mike Lorentz, CEO of Lorentz Meats based in Cannon Falls. “We believe strengthening regional small players that can distribute into conventional supply chains will help create a more resilient food system. We would appreciate any support USDA could provide plants like ours.”
To build on recent efforts to increase competitiveness in the industry and expand slaughter and processing capacity, the Members requested that the Biden Administration:
1. Ensure small and regional meat and poultry processors can access the grant funds necessary to expand their infrastructure, increase productivity and explore new technologies to support and grow their businesses.
2. Provide more generous and accessible financing options for meat and poultry processors across the country to immediately expand industry-wide shackle space and capacity.
3. Provide grants to help train new meat and poultry industry workers – which would help the sector create well-paying rural jobs, improve local and regional markets, improve farm incomes, address labor challenges and increase food system resilience.
Representatives Craig, Johnson, Pingree and Fortenberry were joined in sending the letter by Representatives Troy Balderson, Ed Case, Marcy Kaptur, Kaiali’i Kahele, Randy Feenstra, James Baird, Cindy Axne, Sanford Bishop, Abigail Spanberger, Jahana Hayes, Antonio Delgado, Kim Schrier, Ann Kuster, Vicky Hartzler, David Rouzer, Barry Moore, Kat Cammack, Michelle Fishbach, Betty McCollum, Adrian Smith, Dan Newhouse, Kelly Armstrong, Clay Higgins, Robert Latta, Warren Davidson, and Pete Stauber.
The Members’ initiative is supported by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Farmers Union, and the American Farm Bureau Federation.