- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2022

President Biden on Monday will promote an overhaul of the meat-packing industry as he blames rising consumer prices and dwindling farmers’ profits on the handful of large “middlemen” who dominate the processing segment of the supply chain.

The White House said the administration will spend $1 billion to expand independent processing capacity and instill competition in a market where four meat-packing companies control 85% of the beef market, four firms control 50% of poultry processing, and four big processors control 70% of the pork market.

Mr. Biden is under pressure to alleviate inflation and supply chain pressures that are making food, gas, toys and other products more expensive. At times, he’s blamed the sticker shock on price gouging by big industry players.

The meat-processing industry is his latest target. He said dominant processors are increasing their profits at the expense of farmers and families.

“Even as farmers’ share of profits have dwindled, American consumers are paying more — with meat and poultry prices now the single largest contributor to the rising cost of food people consume at home,” a White House fact sheet said.

Mr. Biden’s plan includes $100 million for workforce training and safety after Congress accused the meat-packing industry of forcing workers into unsafe conditions during the pandemic. Ransomware attacks also hit the industry earlier in Mr. Biden’s term.

“When too few companies control such a large portion of the market, our food supply chains are susceptible to shocks. When COVID-19 or other disasters such as fires or cyberattacks shutter a plant, many ranchers have no other place to take their animals. Our over-reliance on just a handful of giant processors leaves us all vulnerable, with any disruptions at these bottlenecks rippling throughout our food system,” the administration said.

The White House said it will strengthen rules that require farmers and ranchers to get a fair price for the meat they provide. It will also revisit rules that allow meat to be labeled a “Product of USA” if it is only processed in this country, including when meat is raised overseas and cut in the U.S.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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