On Thursday, as part of an administration initiative to increase independent meat processing capacity, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $38 million in grants to processors and $77 million to intermediary lenders to finance the start-up, expansion, or operation of independent processing facilities. The result will be a stronger food supply chain and more competition in the meat processing sector, said the administration.
Irked by California’s Proposition 12, seven farm-state senators announced legislation on Thursday to prohibit states from regulating agricultural production in other states. Virtually anyone — producer, distributor, trade group, transporter, consumer, and laborer were named in the bill — would be empowered to challenge such regulatory infringement in court and seek financial compensation.
The meat industry encouraged farm-state lawmakers on Wednesday to legislatively override the Supreme Court ruling that gives states the power to set animal welfare standards and regulate meat sales. The Supreme Court decision upholding California’s Proposition 12 “opens the door to chaos,” said Bryan Burns of the North American Meat Institute.
The chief executives of the nation’s four largest meatpacking companies said on Wednesday that they were not the cause of surging meat prices at the grocery store, which are up by 15 percent in a year. And they told a skeptical House Agriculture chairman David Scott there was no pact to drive up profits at the expense of consumers or limit the meat supply for Americans.
The chief executive officers of Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS, and National Beef — the four largest meatpackers in the country — will testify at a House Agriculture Committee hearing on consolidation in the meat industry, said chairman David Scott.
A bill to require USDA reports on the number of cattle being delivered under contract for slaughter by meatpackers will be called for a House vote on Tuesday. It will be debated under provisions that prohibit amendments and require a two-thirds majority for passage, an approach usually reserved for bills that are noncontroversial.
After years of fighting California's voter-approved Proposition 12 in court, meatpackers and the pork industry are asking for more time to comply with its animal welfare requirements. Estimates of the impact on consumers when Prop 12 takes effect on Jan. 1 vary widely, from increased pork costs of $10 per person annually to a warning by a hog-state senator that bacon could cost $17 a pound next year.
Agricultural law expert Janie Hipp promised on Thursday to be "a big voice at the interdepartmental table" in dealing with cattle prices and biofuels if she is confirmed by the Senate to lead the USDA's legal shop. "I commit to you that I will get on this [cattle price transparency] as one of my very, very top priorities."
In a joint statement on Monday, six farm groups called on the Justice Department to investigate the highly consolidated meatpacking industry and urged the development of “new independent, local and regional packers.” Ranch and farm groups have complained repeatedly during the …
The federal government never instructed Tyson Foods and other meatpackers to keep their plants open during the early months of the pandemic, according to the Department of Justice in a recent filing in a federal appeals case. Experts say the brief, along with others filed in the case, is a good sign for the plaintiffs, the relatives of four Tyson workers in Waterloo, Iowa, who died of Covid-19 last spring. It is also likely to have broad implications for other Covid-related lawsuits filed by meatpacking workers around the country. (No paywall)
One of the largest U.S. farm groups called for the incoming Biden administration to rescind a new fair play rule for livestock marketing, unveiled by the Agriculture Department on Thursday, that it sees as a setback for family farmers in dealing with the handful of companies that dominate the meat industry.
U.S. meatpackers ran at roughly three-fourths capacity during April as outbreaks of the coronavirus forced some of the country's largest meat plants to close temporarily, said the USDA on Thursday. Production is rebounding in May, but the risk of a resurgence of the virus hangs over the industry, said analysts. (No paywall)
As Covid-19 has swept through meatpacking facilities, it has been hard to figure out exactly how many workers have gotten sick or died of the virus. Some companies have shared numbers on positive cases, but most of the largest meatpackers have kept that data private. Critics say that the lack of disclosure puts public health at risk, especially as nearly all idled meat plants reopen. (No paywall)
Wholesale beef prices have jumped to record levels, as shoppers stockpile meat in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. But this run on beef isn’t helping cattle ranchers. On the contrary, cattle prices have plummeted since January, putting many ranchers on the brink of collapse. “It’s never been worse. The futures market is crashing … and box beef prices are skyrocketing. It’s nuts,” says rancher Mike Callicrate of St. Francis, Kansas. (No Paywall)
Eight months after one USDA agency rescinded its standard for grass-fed beef, a sister agency published a "labeling guideline" — open to public comment for 60 days — that says the term is available only for beef from cattle "that were only (100 percent) fed grass (forage) after being weaned." A small-farm group said the step would "preserve the label's strong reputation."
A government report says the injury rate for meat industry workers has improved greatly yet injuries are more common than in the rest of the manufacturing sector, reports Harvest Public Media. "But injuries in the meat industry are also likely to be under-reported," it says.
Federal workplace records show that during the first nine months of 2015, "workers in meatpacking plants owned by Tyson Foods averaged at least one amputation a month," says Harvest Public Media, which credits occupational health professor Celeste Monforton for getting the data through a Freedom of Information Act request.
With time running out, the Senate passed and sent to the House a bill to reauthorize federal inspection of export grain and a requirement for meatpackers to report purchase prices of cattle, hogs and sheep.