(Bloomberg) — US President Joe Biden on Monday announced plans to combat the market power of the conglomerates that dominate meat and poultry processing, ramping up a months-long crackdown, highlighting anti-competitive practices in the sector as partly to blame. Food swell.
Biden will join Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick Garland in a virtual meeting with ranchers and farmers to hear complaints about consolidation in the sector.
At the same time, the newly launched portal will allow these agents to report unfair trade practices by meat manufacturers.
The White House will also emphasize initiatives to combat the economic power of meat manufacturers, including $1 billion in federal aid to help expand independent businesses and new competition regulations that are under consideration.
The latest ad draws attention to Biden’s feud with the meat industry and helps portray him as a president willing to take on strong business interests when it comes to consumer prices.
Many of his supporters in the Democratic Party know that months of negotiations over an economic plan have kept the president away from the population’s most pressing concerns.
Inflation has jumped to the top of public concerns after hitting a 40-year high. Meat, which had accumulated a 16% increase in the twelve months to November, was the largest contributor to inflation in supermarkets.
Industry representatives attribute the price hikes to labor shortages, high fuel prices, and constraints in supply chains.
As part of an executive order announced in July to spur competition across the economy, Biden called for a specific review of the meat and poultry processing industry. Its chief economic adviser later accused meatpacking companies of taking advantage of the pandemic to generate abusive profits.
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The USDA announced plans in June to study three new regulations regarding unfair trade practices in the meat and poultry markets. Officials expected the new rules to be proposed earlier this year.
The president has appointed corporate consolidation critics to key positions in his administration, including Lena Khan as chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Jonathan Kanter as deputy attorney general in antitrust cases.
Four large meat packing machines control more than 80% of US beef manufacturing capacity. Concentration levels are similar for pig and poultry slaughter.
According to a newsletter distributed by the White House to reporters, the situation means that most ranchers “now have little or no buyer choice for their products and little bargaining power.” In the quarterly balance sheet released in November, Tyson Foods reported record profits in its beef processing.
According to the report, the assistance to independent meat processors, which will come from epidemic relief funds, includes $375 million to cover financing and $100 million in loan guarantees through private banks.
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