WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a legislative package led by U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger that would help lower costs at the grocery store, reduce gas prices, strengthen food supply chains, and increase competition in the American meat industry.
The Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act would address systemic risks in the supply chains of the American energy and agriculture sectors. The legislation would also combat rising fertilizer prices and increase the availability of higher ethanol blends and other biofuels in Virginia and across the country.
The legislation includes Spanberger’s Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act — also known as the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act — which would tackle anticompetitive practices and increase fairness in the American meat and poultry industry. Specifically, her bill would establish a new “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This new USDA Special Investigator would focus on preventing shortages, enforcing America’s anti-trust laws, and holding bad actors in the meat industry accountable. Last month, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee voted to pass Spanberger’s Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act.
The Lower Food and Fuels Costs Act also includes the Butcher Block Act, bipartisan legislation Spanberger spearheaded to expand regional livestock and meat processing capacity. The bill — which she led with U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD-AL) — would help increase competition within the meat packing industry, as well as allocate grants to smaller producers to increase their hiring and processing capacities. The U.S. House Agriculture Committee also voted to pass this legislation last month.
“Every day, Virginia consumers are feeling the impacts of rising prices at the grocery store and at the gas pump, and our economy continues to grapple with significant supply chain challenges in the wake of the pandemic. We cannot ignore how inflation is creating difficult financial decisions for Virginia families, seniors, and businesses — and we must do more to combat high prices as we head into the summer,” said Spanberger. “I’m encouraged that this legislation includes my bipartisan provisions to increase competition in the American meat industry, support Virginia’s livestock producers, and ultimately lower prices at the grocery store — and I want to thank my colleagues in both parties for working together to tackle these issues. As lawmakers, we need to stay laser-focused on ways to bring down food and fuel costs — and I’m glad to see this package make its way to the floor of the U.S. House later this week. I look forward to moving it forward and responding to the urgency of the hard conversations happening at kitchen tables across America.”
Click here for a summary of the provisions found in the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act.
The Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act would help lower prices at the pump by:
- Expanding U.S. biofuels investments and giving consumers the choice to purchase fuels that are cheaper than standard gasoline.
- Deploying additional storage and dispensing equipment to increase availability of higher ethanol blends and other biofuels.
- Moving forward with voluntary year-round sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol — known as E-15 or Unleaded 88.
The Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act would help lower grocery store costs and strengthen support for America’s ag industry by:
- Increasing competition and combatting consolidation in the American meat industry.
- Reducing input costs on fertilizer and improving access to precision agriculture practices.
- Rebalancing the U.S. cattle market and leveling the playing field for small and medium-sized meat processors.
- Providing new assistance to specialty and row crop producers who undertake USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service practice standards.
- Creating an Agricultural and Food System Supply Chain Resilience and Crisis Response Task Force at USDA.
The Spanberger-led bills in the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act address specific challenges facing America’s agriculture sector — including rising food costs, consolidation in the U.S. cattle industry, and a lack of resources for new processors.
Under Spanberger’s Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, the new USDA Special Investigator would have access to a team of investigators — with subpoena and litigation power — focused on enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws. Specifically, this investigator would coordinate and act in consultation with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as build a channel of communication between USDA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to protect the security of the nation’s food supply and address potential threats. Spanberger and U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA-02) first introduced their legislation in June 2021, and this legislation is the companion bill to legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) in the U.S. Senate.
Spanberger’s bipartisan Butcher Block Act would establish a loan program at USDA Rural Development for new and expanding meat processors, as well as finance producer investment to drive competition within the meat packing industry. Additionally, it would allocate grants to entities to increase hiring and processing capacity. According to a 2021 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 bill was introduced in June 2021.
Spanberger is the only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, where she serves as Chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee.