Minnesota Farmers Union today praised the Biden-Harris administration for dedicating $1 billion to expand independent processing capacity.
“COVID-19 laid bare the fact that our meat processing system is too consolidated,” said Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) President Gary Wertish. “Four companies controlling 85 percent of the beef market hasn’t worked for farmers for a long time and it doesn’t work for workers or consumers either. The investments laid out by the Biden-Harris administration today will help make our food system more diversified, resilient and fair. We’re eager to see these investments come to Minnesota and benefit consumers and our family farmer members who raise livestock.”
MFU members identified a lack of access to meat processing capacity as an issue that needed immediate improvement in 2020, when they adopted the issue as part of their special orders of business at their virtual convention. As the result of advocacy by the Minnesota Farmers Union, the state of Minnesota has invested more than half a million dollars in meat processing infrastructure and two colleges are starting meat processing training programs – the first in the state since 2006. Members are eager to continue the progress, again adopting a special order encouraging local and regional processing in 2021.
- Jump-start independent processing projects that will increase competition and enhance the resiliency of the food supply chain.
- Strengthen the financing systems for independent processors, investing up to $275 million in partnership with lenders to provide loans and other support to businesses.
- Back private lenders that invest in independently owned food processing and distribution infrastructure.
- Dedicate $100 million to support development of a well-trained workforce, safe workplaces and good-paying, quality jobs in the independent processor industry.
In addition, the administration said it plans to issue new, stronger rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act and issue new “Product of USA” labeling rules.
“Congress passed the Packers and Stockyards Act in 1921 when the ‘Big Five’ controlled the meat and poultry processing sector,” Wertish said. “I would argue the situation is more critical now, with two of the four companies who control most of the beef processing being foreign owned. Their profits go overseas; they don’t come back to family farmers and local communities.
“The importance of buying locally was highlighted during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wertish added. “We support accurate labeling that reflects where a product was born, raised and processed. Consumers can use that information to make informed purchasing decisions.”