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House advances Meat Packing Special Investigator Act

marina_karkalicheva/iStock/Thinkstock Pork carcasses hanging in cooler
Legislative Watch: Preventing anticompetitive practices; America's food supply chain; competition in fertilizer, seed and inputs; Taylor nominated.

The House Agriculture Committee passed on a nearly partisan vote the "Meat Packing Special Investigator Act" which would create within USDA's Packers and Stockyards Division an "Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters." The office is designed to focus on anticompetitive issues and antitrust enforcement.

The USDA special investigator would have a team of attorneys and investigators with subpoena power to address and prevent anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries and enforce antitrust laws. The office would consult with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission regarding competition and trade practices in the food and agricultural sector.

Proponents of the bill said it was needed to deal with the issue of concentration. The administration has said the bill would help in dealing with competition and inflation.

Opponents of the bill point out that it duplicates already existing regulatory enforcement authority. They pointed out that USDA's Packers and Stockyards Division currently investigates allegations of impropriety and brings administrative cases and levies civil penalties when warranted. P&S works with the Department of Justice in taking various cases to court. Currently, penalties for violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act can be civil penalties, permanent injunctions, fines and jail sentences.  

The bill is expected to be considered by the House of Representatives as early as next week or June.

Strengthening America's food supply chain
Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) have introduced the bipartisan "Strengthening the Agriculture and Food Supply Chain Act" to create a dedicated task force designed to shore up the American food supply chain.

The task force would be responsible for:

  • Evaluating the stability and reliability of the agriculture and food system supply chain by assessing:
    • the strengths of the agriculture and food system supply chain
    • the weaknesses of the agriculture and food system supply chain
    • current and potential future critical bottlenecks in the agriculture and food system supply chain, including transportation bottlenecks in the distribution of agricultural inputs, processed and unprocessed food and food input products, and consumer-ready food products
    • workforce challenges and opportunities in the agriculture and food system supply chain
    • Federal, state and local laws and regulations that increase the stability and reliability of the agriculture and food system supply chain or decrease or otherwise negatively impact the stability and reliability of the agriculture and food system supply chain
  • Identifying specific recommendations to improve the security, safety and resilience of the agriculture and food system supply chain, including recommendations that address:
    • long-term strategies
    • industry best practices
    • risk-mitigation actions to prevent future bottlenecks and vulnerabilities at all levels of the agriculture and food system supply chain
    • legislative and regulatory actions that would positively impact the security and resilience of the agriculture and food system supply chain

The task force would report its recommendations to Congress.

Competition in the fertilizer, seed and ag inputs markets
The USDA has extended the public comment period to identify the impacts of concentration and competition in the seed, fertilizer, other agricultural inputs and retail markets until June 15.

This past March, USDA published requests for information about competition issues as they relate to: (1) fertilizer; (2) seed and agricultural inputs, particularly as they relate to the intellectual property system; and (3) food retail, including access to retail for agricultural producers and small and medium-sized food processors through wholesale and distribution markets.

Additional information is available here.

Taylor nominated for Under Secretary for Trade
President Joe Biden announced the nomination of Alexis Taylor to serve as USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. Taylor currently serves as the Oregon Director of Agriculture. She previously served as Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service during the Obama administration. Taylor worked on Capitol Hill for former Representative Leonard Boswell (D-IA) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT).  

Her nomination is already receiving supporting comments from the National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, North American Meat Institute, USA Rice, U.S. Grains Council and U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

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