In an online roundtable Monday with farmers, ranchers and poultry producers, President Biden focused on their problems and their focus in the meat industry, rather than the issue of inflation for consumers.
Several key lawmakers from farm leaders have praised Biden’s comments and actions, while Bill Bullard of R-CALF USA has expressed uncertainty and leaders of the North American Meat Institute and the National Chicken Council have been critical.
In his remarks, Biden acknowledged that prices for meat and poultry are higher than before the pandemic.
Noting that over the weekend a family friend brought up that the burger now costs more than $ 5 a pound, Biden said, “A pound of beef now costs $ five, up from less than $ four before. the pandemic “.
But it quickly changed to the fact that farmers and ranchers used to get a higher percentage of the dollar from consumers.
According to a transcript released by the White House, Biden said, “And here’s a historical background: Fifty years ago, ranchers received over 60 cents for every dollar a family spent on beef. Today they get around 39 cents. 50 years ago pig farmers got 40 to 50  cents for every dollar spent. Today it’s about 19 cents. And big companies are making huge profits.
“As their profits increase, the prices you see in grocery stores rise proportionately and the prices farmers receive for the products they bring to market decrease,” Biden said.
“This reflects the market distorted by a lack of competition.
“I have said it before and I will repeat it: capitalism without competition is not capitalism; it is exploitation.
Biden has released a plan to address these issues.
The White House said the following people joined the virtual meeting:
▪ Attorney General Merrick Garland
▪ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
▪ Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council
▪ Corwin Heatwole, CEO, Farmer Focus
▪ Scott Blubaugh, President, Oklahoma Farmers Union
▪ Kelsey Ducheneaux-Scott, Director of Programs, Intertribal Agriculture Council
▪ Brent Johnson, President, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation
▪ Handy Kennedy Jr., owner, HK Farms
The White House also released a reading from the meeting and a summary of statements from those praising the meeting. He noted that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Other officials and farm leaders, including the chairman of the American Farm Bureau Federation , Zippy Duvall and National Farmers Union president Rob Larew had made positive statements about Biden’s statements and his plan.
Grassley noted that the White House is urging support for the competition law he has co-sponsored.
Stabenow said, “The Biden-Harris administration’s action plan makes significant progress in creating a stronger and fairer meat and poultry supply chain that respects workers, stabilizes prices for food for consumers and fairly compensates the farmers and ranchers who put food on our tables.
Duvall said, “The AFBF appreciates the continued work of the Biden administration to ensure a fair and competitive meat processing system. … “
“The joint USDA-Department of Justice initiative to create an online portal to report competition law violations, and efforts to strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act, will go a long way in ensuring fairness in industry. “
Larew said, “We hope that the administration’s renewed focus on strengthening competition and reducing prices will force the changes necessary to create a level playing field for those who bear the responsibility of feeding America, and thank President Biden for leading the effort to address these issues. “
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said, “We recognize that this level of government involvement is unprecedented and essential to reversing the decades of inattention, neglect and denial that have facilitated the elimination of competition in our US beef industry.
Still, Bullard said his group remained skeptical of the plan’s strategy to tackle decades of non-enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws and the century-old Packers and Stockyards Act.
But Julie Anna Potts, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute, which represents meat processors, said in a press release: “The Biden administration continues to ignore the number one challenge of meat production and poultry: labor shortages.
“This tired approach is not surprising as they have refused to engage with the packaging and processing industry they are attacking, going so far as to organize a roundtable on meat packaging without quitting. ‘only one packer of beef or pork is present,’ said Potts.
“Press conferences and the use of taxpayer dollars to establish government-sponsored packaging and processing plants will do nothing to address the labor shortage in meat and poultry factories and to increase inflation in the economy.
“The administration wants the American people to believe that the meat and poultry industry is unique and does not experience the same problems causing inflation in the economy, such as rising input costs, rising energy costs, labor shortages and transportation problems. Consumers know better.
National Chicken Council President Mike Brown said, “While we haven’t seen any proposals, for the chicken industry it looks like a solution looking for a problem. “
“The vast majority of chicken farmers thrive on helping to produce the number one protein in the United States. In fact, chicken businesses have waiting lists of potential family farmers who want to partner with them and get into the chicken business.
“The chicken industry is the least consolidated of all animal agriculture, and the market share of the top four companies has been virtually the same over the past 20 years,” Brown said.
“It’s time for the White House to stop playing chicken with our food system and stop using the meat industry as a scapegoat for the significant challenges facing our economy. This administration should view the chicken industry as a model for success, rather than creating a bogeyman to justify an unnecessary and costly foray into our meat supply.