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.
Congress would create a loan and guarantee program to expand competition in the meat processing industry under a bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. The bill would authorize up $20 million a year through 2024 for the loan guarantees.
Hog farmers will have an additional two weeks, until April 29, to apply for federal payments to offset the pandemic-depressed prices offered by packers on the cash market during the summer of 2020, said the Agriculture Department on Thursday.
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.
Nearly twice as many meat-processing plants employ short-term foreign workers than in 2015, "a small but growing trend" in the industry, said an Investigate Midwest report. Seaboard Foods, one of the companies using H-2B guestworkers, said it pays the workers the same wage and provides the same benefits that it gives domestic employees, although the comparatively small number of guestworkers wear a hard hat with an identifying color.
Biden nominee Jennifer Moffitt said she would strengthen USDA rules to give farmers more muscle in dealing with meat processors if she is confirmed as agriculture undersecretary for marketing. "Should I be confirmed, I do commit to supporting trade, to supporting fair marketplace practices," she told senators on Thursday.
The USDA will propose three rules to give cattle, hog and poultry producers more leverage in dealing with meat processors in an increasingly concentrated industry, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The initiatives would make it easier for a producer to prove unfair treatment by a processor and would write a new regulation on use of so-called tournament systems by processors to determine pay for poultry farmers.
The Biden administration earmarked $4 billion on Tuesday to strengthen the U.S. food system, including an expansion of local and regional food processing capacity. Aiming to increase competition, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he hoped to see "new entries" in the highly concentrated processing sector.
Small livestock producers often face the problem of finding a meat processor who is located nearby or with the available capacity when their animals are ready for slaughter. Reps Chellie Pingree and Jeff Fortenberry said the bottleneck would be eased under their bill, filed on Tuesday, that …
Ten members of the U.S. House filed a bipartisan bill to provide grants to poultry and red meat processors that want to improve their facilities so they can move to federal inspection and sell their products across state lines. Sponsors include leaders of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees USDA spending.(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)
Covid-19 infections of workers at U.S. packing plants forced declines in red meat and poultry production during April with beef production hit the hardest, said USDA economists on Monday. Disruptions will be felt for the rest of the year, but meat production in 2021 is forecast to rise nearly 4 percent higher than this year due to recovery in all major types of meat. (No Paywall)
The next coronavirus relief bill should include indemnity money for hog farmers who killed their animals because slaughter plants were shut down due to the coronavirus, said 14 senators in a letter to House and Senate leaders on Monday. The letter did not suggest how much the indemnities would cost.
Although beef and pork slaughter plants ran at less than three-fourths capacity last week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, "We think most of our facilities will be back on line" by the end of this week. That would account for as much as 85 percent of U.S. meat-processing capacity. Fourteen beef, pork and poultry plants resumed operation last week, according to the USDA. Other tallies showed a handful of plants still shut down.(No paywall)
Farmers across the nation may be forced to kill 700,000 hogs a week because of coronavirus closures and slowdowns at slaughter plants, said four Iowa leaders in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday. Led by Gov. Kim Reynolds, the elected officials asked for federal indemnities to help the farmers stay in business.
Up to $7 million will be paid in bonuses to "team members who continue to produce food during the Covid-19 outbreak," said Hormel Foods on Thursday. The money will be paid in July to employees at Hormel's meat and processed food plants and would follow a $4 million bonus paid in April. (No paywall)
FERN staff writer Leah Douglas has created a map of meatpacking and food processing plants where cases of Covid-19 have been reported. As of midday Wednesday, at least 11 meatpacking plants and two processed food plants have closed, and a total of 40 have reported cases of Covid-19. At least 1,950 workers are confirmed sick and at least 11 have died, the story says.(No paywall)
Meatpacker JBS USA said it will close its cattle slaughter plant in Greeley, Colorado, until April 24 while its 6,000 employees self-quarantine in an effort to eradicate a coronavirus outbreak in the community. Two JBS workers have died of Covid-19 and four dozen others have tested positive for the virus.