Meat processing

USDA has announced a number of actions to improve market conditions for livestock farmers.

The agency will use $500 million in American Rescue Plan funds for loans, grants and technical assistance for new meat and poultry processing plants.

Existing small meat processors will receive $55 million to expand capacity and $100 million to offset overtime inspection fees incurred during the pandemic.

The initiative responds to concerns about the large market share of the four biggest meatpackers, and about the resilience of the supply chain. Several major packing plants closed briefly early in the pandemic, disrupting meat availability at some stores.

USDA also announced new regulations designed to protect farmers through the Packers and Stockyards Act.

The rules will clarify what meatpacker practices are unfair to farmers, address compensation practices for chicken farmers, and make clear the burden of proof needed to establish a violation of the act.

Additionally, USDA said it will develop a plan to increase farmers’ access to new markets.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack’s July 9 announcement in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was part of the Biden administration’s new push to increase competition in many industries.

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