HELENA — President Joe Biden held a roundtable Monday to hear from meat and poultry producers on how to create a more fair and resilient supply chain.
The goal is to give the consumer a better selection of beef, chicken, or pork at a lower price while minimizing disruptions to the supply chain. The Biden administration says today’s farmers and ranchers have less negotiating power, resulting in fewer profits, and more expensive products for consumers.
Fifty years ago, beef ranchers got over 60 cents on every dollar spent by consumers on beef, compared to the 39 cents made today. Hog farmers would earn anywhere from 40-to-60 cents on each dollar spent 50 years ago, which is down to 19 cents today.
Supply chain disruptions like cyber-attacks and COVID-19 have had a significant impact on the meat processing industry over the past two years.
The Biden administration plans to dedicate $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funding towards the expansion of independent processing capacity. His announcement Monday comes after receiving hundreds of comments from industry stakeholders.
After reviewing the comments, the USDA set goals to increase producer income and processing ownership, create more stable and well-paying jobs in rural areas, and to provide consumers with more choices among other industry bolstering necessities.
Biden's plan aims to do this by bolstering financial support to independent processors who want to expand, lower fees for overtime and holiday inspections, creating more access to industry knowledge to help smaller independent processors, and issue new "Product of USA" labeling rules to help consumers identify US-grown meat and poultry.
Jay Bodner, Executive Vice President for the Montana Stockgrowers Association, says that this plan will be good for competition which will, in turn, create better prices for the consumer.
“There is opportunity now to increase some of these processing facilities and that increases competition which lowers price for the consumer; certainly increases opportunity for the ranchers. So, we think this is a good start to help jump-start some of these projects, to get them online, to get more cattle processed,” says Bodner.
As the executive order is rolled out in the coming months, Montana ranchers, farmers, and consumers may begin to notice a difference in their choices on the shelves and, hopefully, a difference in their pocketbooks.