WASHINGTON — Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD) announced on Jan. 26 they would reintroduce bipartisan legislation to increase competition in the meatpacking industry.

“Cattle country needs solutions,” Johnson said. “The past few years have taken a toll on the livestock owners who have experienced black swan event after black swan event. The Butcher Block Act will provide increased capacity to small packers and drive healthy competition to create a more stable market.”

The bill would assist new and expanded livestock or meat processors in improving market options for livestock producers, further competitive markets and facilitate value-added opportunities for livestock producers.

Both representatives first introduced legislation in July 2021 that eventually passed in the House of Representatives in June 2022 as part of a larger package.

“Livestock and poultry producers across Virginia bring in millions of dollars for our local economy,” Spanberger said. “But market consolidation continues to pressure these vital industries. As the only Virginian on the House Agriculture Committee, I understand the need to make long-term investments in our domestic food supply.”

Other elements of the bill include allowing for the financing of cooperative stock in producer-owned processing facilities and refinancing for expanded processing capacity.

The bill also establishes a Rural Development grant program at USDA for eligible entities to assist with new construction or expansion planning and compliance.

According to stakeholders, the Butcher Block Act is endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and US Cattlemen’s Association.

A-Plus Act 

This week, Representative Johnson also proposed the Amplifying Processing of Livestock in the United States (A-PLUS) Act with Representative Mark Alford (R-MO.).

The A-Plus Act would revise the Packers and Stockyards Act to give livestock auction owners investment interest in small meat packers.

The legislation also allows livestock auction owners to invest in packers with a slaughter capacity of less than 2,000 head per day and less than 700,000 head per year of cattle and sheep.

The A-Plus Act stated the same rules would be applied for auction owners who want to work with hog operations with less than 10,000 head per day and less than 3 million head per year.

Johnson said this cap is aimed to exclude investment in the 10 largest meatpackers in the United States.