The Biden administration plans to administer a big kiss to meatpacking workers, while delivering a raspberry to many of their bosses.
The USDA this week unveiled a program to provide $600 payments to a variety of food-chain workers, including employees of meatpacking plants, to defray costs incurred during the pandemic. These include costs of personal protective equipment, dependent care and expenses associated with quarantines and testing.
The program will deliver $700 million in grants through state agencies and nonprofit organizations devoted to helping food-chain employees. Besides meatpackers, workers on farms and in grocery stores will also be eligible.
Meanwhile, the White House official website came out with a blog post decrying concentration in meat processing and accusing the dominant market players of price-gouging.
“Just four large conglomerates control the majority of the market for each of these three products, and the data show that these companies have been raising prices while generating record profits during the pandemic,” the opening part of the blog post says. After running through statistics and charts detailing how meat prices rose and leading companies profited during the pandemic, the post lays out proposed courses of action.
These include: Stricter enforcement of antitrust laws, providing relief to small businesses hurt by COVID, fighting man-made climate change with its harm to farmers and ranchers, and supporting legislation that would give ranchers more power in negotiations with big meat processors.
The North American Meat Institute denouncedthe “inflammatory statements” by the White House, attributing the rise in meat prices to “a persistent and widespread labor shortage.” Tyson Foods also issued a rebuttal, saying that “Tyson’s scale allows it to operate efficiently, which keeps costs down for consumers.”