D.C. Dispatch: Biden administration takes aim at meatpacking industry

By: - September 10, 2021 1:17 pm

President Biden’s move to add competition to the meatpacking industry depends on a long rulemaking process. (Creative Commons photo via Pxhere)

Welcome to the D.C. Dispatch, our round-up of Iowa news from the nation’s capital. This week, Biden administration officials promised action against major meatpackers that have driven up grocery store prices. Iowa lawmakers stayed focused on an upcoming budget bill and the CyHawk game this weekend.

Biden administration takes aim at meat conglomerates

Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday that a lack of competition among meat processors has caused rising prices for pork, beef and poultry at the grocery store.

“Just four large conglomerates control the majority of the market for [beef, pork and poultry], and the data show that these companies have been raising prices while generating record profits during the pandemic,” according to a White House release.

The Biden administration and the USDA intend to enforce antitrust measures and prohibit price-fixing by major meat processing companies. They also announced a $1.4 billion relief program that includes $600 payments for farm and meatpacking workers impacted by COVID-19.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley commended the announcement Wednesday.

“Family farmers in Iowa, especially our independent livestock and poultry producers, have worked through tough year after tough year,” he wrote in a statement. “Additional pandemic assistance and expanded emergency aid to those affected by the drought and extreme weather will help bring some much-needed stability to those who produce our food.”

Iowa’s senior senator also promoted his legislation that would increase transparency in cattle markets.

Lawmakers prepare for budget fight

As Democrats toil away on the details of the massive reconciliation bill, Republicans have criticized the price tag and a lack of transparency in the process.

The budget bill could include up to $3.5 trillion in spending over 10 years. The legislation is moving “full speed ahead,” according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

Grassley joined with other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee to ask that they be allowed to vet the spending proposal. In a statement, Grassley said Democrats had withheld the text of the legislation so far.

“Legislation as unprecedented as the Democrats’ rumored proposal should be fully vetted and afforded appropriate opportunity for debate,” the letter reads. 

Sen. Joni Ernst tweeted a video of her appearance on Fox News, arguing that the bill would be a “radical expansion of social welfare programs.”

“We have to get our economy up and going, and this level of spending by the federal government is not going to solve that problem,” she said.

What about biofuels?

Iowa’s lone Democrat, Rep. Cindy Axne, announced this week that she had secured $1 billion for biofuels in the initial draft of the reconciliation bill. Axne had criticized the bipartisan infrastructure proposal for not including biofuels funding.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee also adopted two biofuels amendments from Rep. Randy Feenstra. His proposals would make biofuels eligible for new streams of Department of Energy funding and would fund biofuel research for aviation.

Haley endorses Hinson

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley endorsed Rep. Ashley Hinson this week. Haley directed Twitter users to donate to her “Stand for America” PAC to support Hinson.

Friendly football bets abound ahead of CyHawk game

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Feenstra made a bet ahead of Saturday’s Iowa-Iowa State game. Feenstra will support Iowa State University, located in Feenstra’s 4th district. Miller-Meeks is rooting for the University of Iowa. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Reporter Katie Akin began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.