Consolidation in the livestock industry has led to a decline in small, independent processing facilities and producers. Young and BIPOC farmers struggle to find options to bring their livestock to market, get a fair price for their product, and grow and expand their businesses.
We applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for their action plan for a fairer, more competitive, and more resilient meat and poultry supply chain. Specifically, their investment of $1 billion to expand independent processing capacity is critical for a more just and resilient agricultural future.
For small-scale livestock farmers in our Coalition like Liz and Nate Brownlee of Nightfall Farm in Crothersville, Indiana, the most stressful part of their business is uncertainty around scheduling butcher dates. Liz says processing facilities are scheduling at least a year out, and often multiple years out. “We’re scheduling butcher dates before our animals are even born. That makes it incredibly tough to adjust to increasing customer demand. Plus, scheduling so far in advance means that sometimes we take pigs that are way too small or too large, which creates difficulty for marketing.” Liz added that the lack of processing infrastructure was already a weakness in our food system, but COVID-19 has highlighted and exaggerated this bottleneck.
In addition to supporting new processing infrastructure, the Administration’s plan will address structural challenges in the livestock industry and help decrease consolidation, improve worker conditions, support more resilient local and regional markets, and ensure farmers and ranchers can earn a fair price. These efforts will decrease the barriers young livestock farmers face entering the industry and support their ability to feed their communities.
The National Young Farmers Coalition looks forward to working with the USDA to ensure this support reaches young and BIPOC farmers and supports farmer-led and community-led processing projects.