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.