Politics

In latest battle with meat companies, Biden offers $1B to help smaller meat producers


President Biden took a tougher stance Monday toward the meat industry, accusing the nation’s four largest meat producers of engaging in a near monopoly to send consumer prices soaring.

Mr. Biden said his administration will allocate $1 billion to boost independent meat and poultry producers to stimulate competition in the sector and undercut industry giants.

“Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s exploitation. That’s what we are seeing. Small independent farmers and ranchers are being driven out of business.”

Facing an intense political backlash over inflation, Mr. Biden has pushed back, blaming corporations for anti-competitive practices he says have sent consumer prices soaring.

In addition to scolding the meat industry, Mr. Biden has ordered the Federal Trade Commission to probe whether oil and gas companies were improperly raising prices. The administration also has an investigation into whether retailers have used the supply chain chaos to gouge consumers.

Democratic economist Larry Summers last month warned the administration that its antitrust efforts will only worsen inflation because it will reduce supply.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who joined Mr. Biden at the White House, said the Justice Department has launched a portal for consumers to report potential price gouging across several industries.

“Anticompetitive practices in agriculture, as in any industry, hurt the American people, producers, consumers, and workers alike. And they hurt the American economy,” Mr. Garland said.

The beef industry is an enticing target for Mr. Biden. Meat prices have increased by roughly 20% compared to last year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Overall, food prices have increased by 6.4%.

The nation’s largest meat industry trade group said they are being unfairly scapegoated. They say labor shortage and meat production facilities shutdowns because of COVID-19 are the real culprits — not monopolies as Mr. Biden contends.

“Labor remains the biggest challenge. Our members of all sizes cannot operate at capacity because they struggle to employ a long-term stable workforce. New capacity and expanded capacity created by the government will have the same problem,” Sarah Little, a spokeswoman for the North American Meat Institute, told The Washington Times.

Family Farm Action Alliance, an advocacy group that looks for anti-competitive practices in the farming industry, hailed Mr. Biden’s proposals.

“We are gratified that the White House agrees that all funding from these measures should go exclusively to independent local and regional processors — and not to multinational conglomerates,” the group said in a statement.

“We acknowledge that while there’s a long road ahead toward a more fair, competitive, and resilient food system, we are encouraged that the White House is listening to those who actually power the U.S. food and farm system: independent farmers, ranchers, processors, and workers,” the statement continued.

The Biden administration’s plan includes $375 million in grants for independent meat producers, $275 million in additional funding for processors, $100 million to address inspection costs for smaller processing plants and $100 million to train workers in the meat and poultry industry.

In addition, the administration unveiled new efforts to improve transparency in cattle pricing and to stimulate competition in the meat industry.




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