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President Biden meets with farmers and ranchers in an effort to cut meat prices

Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 8:10 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - President Joe Biden is making an effort to cut meat prices in the United States.

Monday afternoon, he met virtually with independent farmers, ranchers, and processors about the issue.

According to the White House, four major meat-packing companies control more than half of the market in beef, pork, and poultry.

Biden says the lack of competition is leading to sky-high meat prices for consumers.

“These companies can use their position as middlemen to overcharge grocery stores and, ultimately, families,” Biden said.

The big problem is the mark-up consumers are seeing at the meat counter isn’t only hitting them, it’s also not being reflected in the pockets of local farmers.

“Are the packers doing price gouging? I don’t know, it’s still a free enterprise system,” South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association President Eric Jennings said. “They’re buying cattle on a very high supply, there’s a lot of cattle to supply their needs, so they aren’t having to bid very aggressively to buy those cattle; going out of the plant, the processed meat, we have a very a high consumer demand right now, we have a very good export market.”

Monday, the Biden administration laid out an action plan. It starts with investing one-billion-dollars from the American Rescue Plan into the industry, in part to build new independent plants.

“It sounds like a lot of money to start with but when you start building those plants it goes pretty quickly,” Jennings said.

Glenn Muller, the Executive Director of the South Dakota Pork Producer Council, says, locally, labor is more of an issue than competition.

“Competition isn’t the big concern for us, but labor is definitely a concern,” Muller said. “The other thing we have concerns about is transportation.”

Biden’s plan builds off of a July Executive Order, and is aimed at combatting record inflation that threatens the approval rating of the President.

According to the Associated Press, meat prices have climbed 16% from a year ago, with beef prices up 20.9%.

“A free market isn’t truly free without transparency around prices,” Biden said.

By investing in the market, Biden hopes to create a fair, resilient meat and poultry sector, with better earnings for producers and more choices and affordable options for consumers.

“I think all of these are concerns that need to be addressed, but how much they’re going to have is going to depend on our ability to get a work force in place,” Muller said.

Jennings says it could be two years or more before the market sees the President’s plans really have any impact.

“This isn’t going to be an immediate fix,” Jennings said. “Most anything in agriculture, we look long-term.”

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