Butcher Block Act Introduced to Ease Regulatory Barriers for Meat Processors

by Colter Brown

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) today introduced the Butcher Block Act, a bipartisan bill to rebalance the cattle market by easing regulatory barriers and offering U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) meat processing grants for small processors looking to expand or add shackle space.

According to a recent Rabobank report, an additional daily packing capacity of 5,000 to 6,000 head of fed cattle could restore the historical balance of fed cattle supplies and packing capacity. The Butcher Block Act would establish a loan program at USDA rural development for new and expanding meat processors and finance producer investment to drive competition within the meat packing industry. Additionally, it would allocate grants to entities to increase hiring and processing capacity.

“Our cattle producers and economists have been clear, there’s supply and demand, but not enough processing capacity,” said Johnson. “The bipartisan Butcher Block Act will help right the ship in cattle country and create more avenues for producers to sell their product. Producers deserve a fair price and our bill will expand market capacity quickly.”

“In Virginia’s Seventh District, livestock and poultry bring in millions of dollars for Central Virginia producers each year — but this vital funding stream is increasingly threatened by supply chain disruptions, as well as the continued consolidation within the meat industry. Particularly in the wake of cyberattacks directed against American processing facilities, we need to make long-term investments in the stability and security of the U.S. food supply,” said Spanberger. “By providing additional USDA assistance and grants for American processors to launch or expand their operations, our Butcher Block Act would both help protect the U.S. meat industry and increase market opportunities for American livestock producers. I am proud to co-lead the introduction of this legislation alongside Congressman Johnson, and I look forward to Members on both sides of the aisle working together to increase processing capacity, meet food demand here at home, and keep American cattlemen and poultry producers competitive in the global ag economy.”

“The Holcomb plant fire and the COVID-19 pandemic delivered a one-two punch to our nation’s cattle growers and the volatility in the cattle markets that followed drove home the need to find solutions to the challenges facing the industry. We appreciate Congressman Johnson and Congresswoman Spanberger for introducing the Butcher Block Act, which aims to diversify processing and create a more resilient food supply chain. Expanding opportunities for America’s ranchers will ensure they are paid fairly for the cattle they work hard to raise while meeting the demands of a growing nation,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation.

“USCA thanks Congressman Johnson for his leadership in pursuing any and all available solutions to expand and enhance the independent meat processing sector,” said USCA Vice President Justin Tupper from St. Onge, South Dakota. “The Butcher Block Act will provide more opportunities for our small and mid-sized processors to succeed in a business with incredibly high barriers to entry. Through cost-share and grant programs, this bill expands regional processing capacity, which increases competition in the meat packing industry – leading to improved marketing options for livestock producers.”

“From coast to coast, we’re hearing the same need from our producers. More hook space to alleviate the chokepoint in our supply chain must be a part of any solution aimed at putting more of the beef dollar in the pockets of cattle farmers and ranchers,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. “The Butcher Block Act takes important steps to fund the growth of regional and independent packing plants, giving farmers and ranchers more opportunities to get their cattle sold and processed. NCBA thanks Congressman Johnson for his bipartisan leadership on this critical issue for South Dakota ranchers.”

Click here for a one-pager on the Butcher Block Act. The Butcher Block Act is cosponsored by Tracey Mann (R-KS), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Jim Baird (R-IN), Henry Cuellar (D-TC), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN), Frank Lucas (R-OK), and Randy Feenstra (R-IA).



Rep. Dusty Johnson

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