The decades-long decline in the number of U.S. farms can be stanched by adopting climate-smart farming practices and crops, increasing biofuel production, and expanding local and regional marketing, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the largest U.S. farm group on Monday. There are 2 million farms in operation today; the number of farms peaked at 6.8 million in the 1930s.
The campaign by farm-state lawmakers for a federal override of California's Proposition 12 animal welfare law, derided as a "bacon ban," has run into back-home opposition. Activist farm groups say the override, known as the EATS Act, imperils small farmers and must be kept out of the farm bill.
The USDA would offer at least $75 million a year for the development of regionally adapted plant seeds and livestock breeds at public universities under a bill filed by five senators. Sponsors said regional diversity would make the U.S. food chain more resilient and more productive.
The largest farms — with sales of $1 million or more — operate nearly 26 percent of U.S. farmland, six percentage points more than they did a decade ago, even as the number of farms has changed little, said the USDA. In its annual Farms and Land in Farms report, the USDA estimated there were 2.003 million farms in the nation in 2022, a decline of 0.5 percentage points from 2012.
The Senate Agriculture Committee quickly approved legislation on Wednesday that would require meatpackers to buy a portion of their slaughter cattle on the cash market — a step intended to ensure fair prices — and create a USDA special investigator to enforce fair-play rules in the highly concentrated meat industry.
Over the objections of Republicans, the House passed legislation on Thursday to create a USDA special investigator to enforce fair-play rules in the highly concentrated meatpacking industry. It was the most significant livestock marketing reform to advance in Congress this session.
The pandemic exposed the weaknesses of a food system built around large-volume production and national supply chains, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday. As a remedy, he said, the USDA would help independent processors start up or expand their operations and encourage local marketing.
Poultry farmers would have more protection against abuse by processors under a USDA proposal to revamp the “tournament” system that pits producers against each other in a competition for income, said the Biden administration on Thursday. The administration also announced $200 million in funding to help independent meat processors go into business or expand production.
The House Agriculture Committee approved legislation on Wednesday to create a special investigator’s office at the Agriculture Department to enforce fair-play laws in the highly concentrated meat industry. Cleared for a House vote on a party-line, 27-21 roll call, the bill, HR 7606, is the strongest competition bill to advance in this session of Congress.
Although the White House blames big meatpackers for driving up food prices, the real culprits are higher costs and labor shortages all along the supply chain, said a pork industry report on Wednesday. Four packers control 65 percent of hog slaughter in the United States, but the industry is less concentrated than it was five years ago.
While supporting more transparency in cattle prices, the American Farm Bureau Federation draws the line at requiring meatpackers to buy slaughter cattle on the cash market, said president Zippy Duvall. Mandatory purchases are a prime feature of the leading Senate bill for cattle market reform.
The Agriculture Department will launch a $250-million-dollar grant program this summer to support "independent, innovative and sustainable" fertilizer production at home and to reduce reliance on imports. The USDA also said it would launch a public inquiry into concentration in the seed and agricultural input, fertilizer and retail markets.
The USDA will create a $100 million loan-guarantee program to expand processing capacity in the meat industry and improve the infrastructure of the food chain, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. The program is "focused on the middle of the supply chain," he said, such as mobile processing units, new cold storage equipment and formation of cooperatives to gather, process and market farm goods.
Global food company Danone has given a year's notice to 79 organic dairy farms in the Northeast that it will stop buying their milk on Aug. 31, 2022. The decision is just the latest squeeze on organic dairy producers, who face rising costs and pressures to consolidate.
America may still be a land of family farms — 96 percent of the 2 million farms in the country are owned by families, according to a new USDA report on farm types. Yet there are more and more non-family farms, and they account for a growing share of agricultural production.
Some dairy farmers and advocates are worried that president-elect Joe Biden's pick for agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, will do little to address their concerns about issues like consolidation, farm bankruptcies and low milk prices. Critics are especially concerned about how Vilsack’s years running a dairy industry trade group will affect his policymaking approach.(No paywall)
Closures at meatpacking plants due to outbreaks of Covid-19 have sent shockwaves through the livestock industry. With thousands of confirmed cases among plant workers and operations stuttering across the country, the backlog of animals awaiting slaughter is growing and farmers are running out of options. The bottleneck promises to have long-term consequences for American ranchers and is injecting new urgency into calls for relaxing federal regulations that limit small farmers’ access to livestock processing.(No paywall)
With a 50-percent workforce decline at poultry plants owned by the Delaware chicken company Allen Harim, the company told poultry farmers last week that it will begin killing chickens in the field to reduce pressure on its remaining workers during the coronavirus pandemic.(No paywall)
U.S. milk production is projected to top 220 billion pounds this year as a long-running structural shift puts production in the hands of fewer, but larger, dairies. At the same time, the USDA said there were 34,187 dairy herds licensed to sell milk in 2019, a drop of 9 percent from the previous year.