It has always been difficult to make a living as a farmer. But as commodity prices continue to drop and climate change throws weather patterns out of whack, you can reasonably make the case that it’s as difficult as it’s ever been to make money farming in America.
A new executive order issued by the Biden administration seeks to change that, by helping small farms and ranches better compete with industrial-scale agriculture companies. Meatpacking is a particular area of focus, as the so-called “Big Four” meatpacking companies (JBS, Cargill, Tyson and National Beef) control over 80% of the domestic market.
The order contains over 70 items to increase competition across various industries. For agriculture, that includes:
– Making it easier to sue large meatpackers over anticompetitive practices
– Encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to create “right to repair” rules, which have previously prevented people from legally fixing their own equipment like tractors and combines
– Giving financial support to smaller meatpacking operations
The order also requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to look at its rules about “country of origin” labels, which can be misleading. Under the current rules, for example, meat from a cow raised in a foreign country could still receive a “Product of the USA” label if it’s slaughtered and packaged in the United States.
Because of the executive order, the USDA will consider tightening those rules to ensure that only meat from animals born in America will be eligible for such a label.
“USDA is looking to actually clarify what could be constituted as a product of U.S.A. and in trying to make that more transparent, and …finding a way to bring more value back to U.S. producers for the product that they produce,” said Jacqui Fatka, policy editor for Farm Progress.