The Butcher Block Act to boost U.S. meat processing capacity, in contrast to a second packer concentration bill, won bipartisan House Ag panel support this week. Butcher Block was bipartisan, while the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act was fiercely-contested, advancing only along partisan lines.
GOP co-author of Butcher Block, Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, reflected the view of both parties when he said U.S. meat production is out of “equilibrium”. Johnson; “We are about 6,000 head a day short of production capacity in this country for us to reach that equilibrium. And I think a lot of us feel, frankly, that having 85 percent of the market in control of four large packers is also suboptimal.”
Johnson worked with Democrat Abigail Spanberger of Virginia on the Butcher Block Act to spur new plants outside the ‘big four.’ Spanberger; “It is a critical step toward increasing competition and helps provide upfront capital. I was pleased that USDA recognized the importance of setting up a program like this and chose to use funds from the American Rescue Plan to establish a similar program.”
While the bill would ensure the program continues, which is something top Ag Republican Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson agrees with. Thompson; “We all have seen with the recent markets disruption, including the Holcomb Plant fire, cyberattacks, covid-19 pandemic, and so many other ‘black swan’ events, have highlighted the importance of diversity and access to process capacity.”
Thompson says he’s pleased that USDA’s run with adding meat plants and hopes the bill will give the effort even more legs.