Will Joe Biden’s Executive Order Trigger Real Change in Food Production?
President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order aimed at increasing competition in all sectors of the economy. This is an upcoming step and a good first step in solving a number of long-term issues.
An important point of interest for agriculture is the amendment of the Grain Inspection Conditioners and Stockyards Act (GIPSA). The decree addresses the current rule that a farmer who has been aggrieved must demonstrate prejudice to competition in an entire sector or the entire industry in order to file a GIPSA complaint. It is a virtual impossibility. The revised rule would protect individual farmers from the corporate abuse they have faced for far too long.
This is particularly important for poultry producers who are forced into a system of tournaments by the integrators, who determine the payments of contract producers. The producers are supplied with birds by the company, which can predetermine the outcome by supplying some producers with inferior animals. This practice is fundamentally unfair and needs to be changed.
Another very important issue addressed in the executive order is the “Product of the United States” labeling. As it stands, anything can be labeled as a “product of the United States” if it is processed or packaged in the United States despite having been raised, bred and / or slaughtered in a country. foreigner.
The new labeling requirement would only allow animals born, raised and harvested in the United States to be labeled “Product of the United States”. A good first step, but restoring mandatory country-of-origin labeling would better inform consumers about the origin of their beef and allow American farmers to better promote American beef products.
The decree also aims to strengthen the enforcement of antitrust laws. Agriculture is one of the most concentrated industries in the United States The trend towards further consolidation of our agriculture and food system is alarming and has resulted in a fragile food system that has repeatedly shown to be wrong. equipped to respond adequately to a real crisis. The COVID pandemic has clearly shown these weaknesses.
Another aspect of this problem is that all major agricultural / food sectors have an alarming amount of foreign ownership of companies. For example, the control of corn seeds by the first four companies is around 85%; Soybeans represent 70%, with two foreign companies, the German Bayer / Monsanto and the Chinese company Syngenta, which now control most of the soybean market.
In the poultry industry, the top four companies controlled 54%, with the Brazilian JBS being a major player. Four companies control more than 70% of the pork industry, with China’s Smithfield and Brazil’s JBS controlling 50% of the pork produced in the United States. The four main beef suppliers control 85% of the market, and two of these companies are foreign-owned, Brazil’s JBS and Marfrig.
When asked in Congress about anti-competitive control, spokespersons for companies like the North America Meat Institute said “market fundamentals” dictate the market. The problem is that multinational slaughterhouses check the “fundamentals” and name the price paid to breeders, while they overcharge the bulk of the consumer. These are issues that farmers have had for some time.
Corporate consolidation has removed all semblance of competition and producers are left with a “take it or leave it” scenario at both ends of the buying and selling process.
For the future, this decree should lay the foundations for the Farm Bill 2022-2023, but it will be up to all of us to engage our elected officials to ensure that these priorities become political.
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