Sec. Vilsack Appears before the House Agriculture Committee

Oct 8, 2021  | 3 min  | Ep4708

Agriculture has been one sector that has enjoyed healthy exports like beef and pork.

This week the Biden Administration added an additional $100 million dollars to an already funded $500 million program designed to help small and medium sized processors. USDA says the loans are designed to help those operations upgrade facilities, with the intention of expanding slaughter capacity industry wide.

John Torpy reports on a hearing aimed at some of the bigger players in the meat market. torpy@iowapbs.org

 
Sec. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture: “The goal here is obviously to strike a better balance between supply and demand between processing capacity competition with greater transparency, so that we can have a stable, independent and fair market.”
 
      USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared before the House Agriculture Committee this week as part of a hearing looking at the state of the livestock and processing industry.
Sec. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture: “There's no question that we are short on capacity, which is one of the reasons why it's more difficult for farmers to get a fair price for what they're raising .”
 
      Over the past few months Vilsack has continually called on Congress to revamp the rules of the Packers and Stockyards Act in order to level the playing field between producers and meat processors.
      Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa also testified before the committee, highlighting the lack of market transparency.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: “Reauthorization of the mandatory price reporting is the vehicle available, where we can add additional price, transparency, and price discovery majors, and that's what I'm advocating.”
 
      Witnesses appearing before the committee point to consolidation among the largest beef processors has created an unbalanced market for producers. 
Todd Wilkinson, Vice President, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association: “But I will tell you this. From an CBA standpoint, we don't want that money that you're given out to go to the four large packers. They don't need any more money. We need that to go to the small producers and the medium size regional plants, because they can make a difference for us.”
 
Work stoppages at processing facilities brought on by the global pandemic exacerbated the existing bottleneck problems in the livestock processing industry. Producers were left waiting with livestock at the packing house door, causing a price decline for farmers and ranchers. Meanwhile, the cost for consumers climbed at the meat counter.
Mr. Scott Blubaugh, President, Oklahoma Farmers Union: “Between 1980 and 2020, the retailer's percentage of the beef food dollar has grown by sixty five percent. And the packer shares increased even more by seventy percent. During the same time the farmer and rancher share has fell by more than forty percent. I asked you how fair is this?” 
      
      A representative for the North American Meat Institute countered, pointing out the fluid nature of the industry.
Francois Leger, owner, FPL Food: ”So, the cattle and beef industry is driven by supply and demand. And the cattle market is cyclical. Not long ago, the cattle market was a reverse of today. In 2013, 14 and 15, the herd was small and producers were making record profits while Packers were losing money.”
 
For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy

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