Culpeper Star-Exponent: House OKs Spanberger bills to cut grocery and gas costs, help farmers

CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT, CLINT SCHEMMER

When the U.S. House of Representatives acted Thursday to give American consumers some relief from higher grocery and gasoline prices and strained food supplies, it wrapped three bills by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, into the package.

Democrats and Republicans contributed legislation to the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, which passed 221-204, to reduce supply-chain risks in the U.S. agriculture and energy sectors. The act would also fight rising fertilizer prices and make higher-ethanol blends and other biofuels more available in Virginia and across the nation, her office said.

Spanberger’s measures seek to lower grocery costs, reduce gas prices, strengthen food supply chains, and increase competition in the meat and poultry industry. The two-term lawmaker is the only Virginian to serve on the House Agriculture Committee; she chairs its Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee.

Her contributions to the House package include the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, which would tackle anticompetitive practices and increase fairness in the meat-processing industry; the Butcher Block Act to expand regional livestock and meat-processing capacity; and the American Food Supply Chain Resiliency Act to help small- and medium-sized farms and agribusinesses navigate supply-chain challenges.

After the House approved the act, several national and Virginia organizations voiced support for the legislator’s work.

The Virginia Cattlemen’s Association thanked Spanberger “for listening to our producers’ concerns and taking decisive action,” said Brandon Reeves, the group’s executive director. He said VCA “looks forward to working with her and her team on future efforts to enhance transparency and accountability.”

David Howard of the National Young Farmers Coalition thanked Spanberger and Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, for their Resiliency Act to strengthen local and regional food systems. “At Young Farmers, we believe farming is essential to our public health and our well-being,” Howard said. “At the same time, this new generation of farmers is struggling with layered challenges from land access to market access.”

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act “takes concrete actions to give farmers a leg up” in combating consolidation and corporate monopolies in agriculture. “Rep. Spanberger is a champion of this legislation and NFU is proud to collaborate with her as a leader on the House Agriculture Committee and a fighter for family farmers and ranchers in Congress,” Larew said.

Spanberger’s Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, which she introduced with Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, would establish an Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The investigator would focus on preventing shortages, enforcing antitrust laws, and holding accountable the meat industry’s bad actors, the Virginian’s office said. Last month, a bipartisan majority of the House Agriculture Committee endorsed the bill.

The Butcher Block Act, which Spanberger led with Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, would help increase competition among meat packers and provide grants to smaller producers to increase their hiring and processing.

To make food supply chains more resilient, the lawmaker’s Resiliency Act would create resource centers in cooperation with USDA to offer locally tailored coordination, technical assistance, and grants. Spanberger introduced the legislation in May.

“Congress cannot shy away from addressing the urgent economic challenges that our local communities and our entire country—and that challenge continues to be inflation,” Spanberger said on the House floor before Thursday’s vote. “We know how rising prices, consolidation across industries, and supply chain challenges are impacting America’s families, businesses, and seniors. And as lawmakers, our job is to listen to the people we represent—and then respond with legislation that can help solve those problems.”

She said the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act will do just that.

On Wednesday, Spanberger led a House press conference, which included House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, to press Congress to put aside partisanship and join forces to combat inflation.

“This bill is not about scoring political points—it’s about trying to bring down the cost of living for the American people,” she said. “… Hyper-partisanship does nothing to actually respond to inflation, make gas cheaper, or make sure food is in the fridge at an affordable price.”

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