U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited western Iowa Friday afternoon to announce significant investments to expand processing capacity and help level the playing field for family farmers.
Speaking from the Rustic Cuts Butcher Shop in Council Bluffs, Vilsack said USDA is investing $500 million in American Rescue Plan funds to expand meat and poultry processing capacity so that farmers, ranchers, and consumers have more choices in the marketplace.
“We have got to expand the amount of capacity in this country,” said Vilsack. “We can no longer rely on a handful of processing companies to do the job, to make the market competitive, to do right by farmers, to ensure as well that we have a resilient food supply system.”
Vilsack also announced more than $150 million for existing small and very small processing facilities to help them weather COVID, compete in the marketplace and get the support they need to reach more customers.
“Over the course of the next few months, we’re going to be listening to the folks behind me and in front of me who are in this business to find out information as to how we should structure this assistance,” said Vilsack. “That $500 million is 500 million of real dollars, which will leverage significantly additional capital investment in expanding processing capacity in this country.”
Vilsack adds Friday’s announcement is one of several key steps that USDA will take to increase competition in agricultural markets, pursuant to President Biden’s Executive Order on promoting competition – and as part of USDA efforts to build a more resilient supply chain and better food system.
“The president today signing this executive order is directing the department of agriculture – among other departments – to really focus on this issue of creating a more competitive market,” said Vilsack. “This combines with the effort the president announced a couple of weeks ago on supply chain resiliency. He put together a task force and agriculture was a part of that task force. He’s encouraging us to look at ways in which we can create more resiliency in our food supply chain.”
Lastly, Vilsack said USDA is holding meatpackers accountable by revitalizing the Packers and Stockyards Act, issuing new rules on “Product of USA” labels, and developing plans to expand farmers’ access to new markets.