Don’t just put lipstick on a pig


Speakout

Recently, the White House held a roundtable to discuss the meat and poultry supply chain. Farmers, ranchers, and independent processors from across the country shared their experience and expertise with this administration. I hope their firsthand account isn’t used to score political points – the White House has the opportunity to take what they heard and implement a real fix.

Unfortunately, the White House is attempting to put lipstick on a pig. South Dakotans already know that over the last few decades, a handful of packers have controlled the market for beef, poultry, and pork, which has left us with a system with less competition for producers and increased vulnerabilities for consumer disruption.

Despite this well-known fact, the administration is using political spin to say this packer concentration is the reason for inflation. They are totally ignoring the trillions of dollars they spent that’s wreaking havoc on our economy and instead, blaming private businesses. While we can acknowledge the structural challenges to the meat industry, placing complete blame on the industry for higher prices is an oversimplification.

I want to give credit where credit is due – I do agree with the White House that the meat and poultry industry is far too concentrated, and it’s a good first step to bring attention to the industry’s concentration. That’s the reason I have been focused on legislation to achieve those goals like the Cattle Contract Library Act that passed the House in December, the PRICE Act, Butcher Block Act, and Small Processor Overtime Fee Relief Act. In fact, the implementation of the Small Processor Overtime Fee Relief Act was highlighted as part of the White House announcement this week.

Some shared goals and concepts in the plan that I have previously included in my legislation are:

Increasing competition and creating more options for producers and consumers by starting small independent processing projects through grants.

Strengthening the financing systems for independent processors by increasing the amount of capital available to them for credit.

Supporting workers by building a pipeline of well-trained workers and supporting fair wages.

Promoting innovation and lowering barriers to entry through publicly accessible expert contract knowledge.

Increasing price transparency.

While all of this sounds good, the devil will be in the details and this White House announcement lacked enough details to set me at ease. I’m cautiously optimistic but with these market investments there will be a huge need for congressional oversight. In my role as Republican Leader on the Livestock Subcommittee, I remain committed to leading and supporting legislation that will benefit producers, consumers, independent packers, and processors. Press releases and attention to the issue is fine if there is follow-though – we must remain committed to pragmatic, long-term solutions that foster competition, transparency, and fairness throughout the industry to improve the market for Americans.

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