$500M investment In small meat processing an opportunity for competitive, equitable livestock markets

WASHINGTON — In an official comment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Family Farm Action Alliance celebrated Secretary Tom Vilsack’s commitment to invest $500 million into local and regional meat processing capacity. The organization further advocated for spending strategies that result in more fair, competitive markets.

During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, locally focused food system actors nimbly adapted to the situation to feed their communities — unlike the “Big Four” meatpackers. Investments in small- and mid-size processors will compound and recirculate in the communities and local food systems those processors serve, rather than underwriting the operations of large, monopolistic, and exploitative meatpacking corporations.

Family Farm Action Alliance urged USDA to adhere to certain recommendations in its application of the $500 million investment. Investments should:

Build fair and competitive markets (and be prohibited from enabling anti-competitive behavior)

Prioritize existing small- and mid-size processors

Demonstrate USDA’s commitment to racial equity

Support safe and fair labor practices in meat processing and provide a path for former meatpacking employees to participate in small- and mid-size processing markets

To address USDA’s admitted history of racial discrimination, Family Farm Action Alliance urged the agency to give priority to BIPOC-owned and operated processing plants within each infrastructure investment category. Family Farm Action Alliance further recommended the USDA disperse the majority of this investment in grants and direct loans to small- and mid-size processors, and to spend the rest in technical assistance, training programs, and cooperative agreements with small- and mid-sized processors.

“These investments are our once-in-a-generation chance to jumpstart a competitive and fair livestock market even as we break up abusive corporate monopolies,” said Emily Miller, research and policy manager for Family Farm Action Alliance. “We can’t afford to miss it.”


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