A centralized complaint process is central to President Biden’s latest moves against anti-competitive practices in the meatpacking industry and is winning early support from a key GOP Senator.
The Biden USDA, Justice Department plan to step up enforcement of federal competition laws, including the Packers and Stockyards Act, is music to the ears of Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley. “It would very much, make the Packers and Stockyards Act, now a hundred years old, hasn’t been effectively used through Republican and Democrat Administrations, beefing it up, particularly in conjunction with the Department of Justice, is a big, a big step forward.”
USDA will refer possible violations to Justice under the process being jointly developed within 30-days. Also key, whistleblower protections. Grassley says; “Let’s just say, hypothetically, you get the same price for the same Big Four on the same day, and each of them say, you won’t be able to deliver your cattle for 30 more days, that sort of information is important, that there’s some sort of conspiracy among the Big Fours.”
However, Grassley isn’t sure if whistleblower protection would extend to individual farmers versus contract employees.
But the Senator still feels his cattle market reform bill setting regional benchmarks for negotiated sales is the best answer to market concentration, despite public skepticism from Secretary Vilsack. Asked about personal conversations. Grassley says; “And he’s talked more about making sure that it was technically operable, accomplishing what we want to accomplish, can he as Secretary of Agriculture carry it out. We haven’t had any opposition from the administration on the substance of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Biden announcement follows earlier capacity-building grants and loans with one billion for small independent processors and help to boost inspections and worker training.