The White House has announced an action plan aimed at boosting competition in the US meat and poultry processing sector amid rising prices.
"The meat and poultry processing sector is a textbook example, with lack of competition hurting consumers, producers, and our economy," the White House said in a fact sheet issued on Monday as it unveiled its plan to create a more competitive, fair, and resilient meat and poultry supply chain.
"When dominant middlemen control so much of the supply chain, they can increase their own profits at the expense of both farmers -- who make less -- and consumers -- who pay more," the White House said, noting four large meat-packing companies control 85 per cent of the beef market.
"When too few companies control such a large portion of the market, our food supply chains are susceptible to shocks. When Covid-19 or other disasters such as fires or cyberattacks shutter a plant, many ranchers have no other place to take their animals," the White House said.
As part of the plan, President Joe Biden's administration will allocate $1 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan, a bill signed into law last year, for expansion of independent processing capacity, according to the White House.
"Small independent farmers and ranchers are being driven out of business, sometimes businesses that have been around for generations," President Biden said on Monday at a virtual meeting with family and independent farmers and ranchers.
"It strikes at their dignity, the respect, and the family legacy so many of them carried for generations after generation," Biden said, adding the administration will work to create more opportunities for family farmers and ranchers and bring down prices at grocery stores.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Merrick Garland also said at the meeting that they committed to effectively enforcing federal competition laws that protect farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural producers and growers from unfair and anticompetitive practices.
Food prices in the US rose by 6.1 per cent in November 2021, the largest 12-month increase in at least 13 years, with beef and poultry among the biggest contributors.
Meanwhile, the overall consumer price index rose 6.8 per cent in the 12-month period ending in November, the fastest annual pace in almost 40 years, according to the Labor Department.