JUST IN: U.S. House Passes Spanberger-Led Package to Lower Grocery & Gas Costs, Fight Inflation

The “Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act” includes the Congresswoman’s “Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act” & “Butcher Block Act”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives today voted to pass legislation led by U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger to 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 is comprised of bills led by both Democrats and Republicans that 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 Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act 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 — which she originally introduced with U.S. Representative MariannetteMiller-Meeks (R-IA-02) — would establish a new “Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters” at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This 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 bill also includes Spanberger’s Butcher Block Act, bipartisan legislation she 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. 

This morning, the U.S. House also unanimously cleared Spanberger’s bipartisan American Food Supply Chain Resiliency Act for inclusion in the package. This legislation focuses on helping small and medium-sized farms and agribusinesses navigate supply chain challenges. Specifically, the bill would establish “Supply Chain Regional Resource Centers” through cooperative agreements with USDA. These Centers would offer locally tailored coordination, technical assistance, and grants — leading to more resilient, diverse, and connected supply chains. Spanberger first introduced this legislation in May 2022. 

Ahead of today’s vote, Spanberger spoke on the floor of the U.S. House in support of her package. Click here to watch her full remarks.

“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,” said Spanberger on the floor of the U.S House. “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. And indeed, this package — the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act  —  is just that.”

Following the passage of the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, several national and Virginia organizations voiced their support for Spanberger’s work to lower food costs, reduce gas prices, and strengthen supply chains across America.

“Farmers Union members stand firm in their fight against consolidation and corporate monopolies in agriculture, and the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act takes concrete actions to give farmers a leg up,” said Rob Larew, President, National Farmers Union. “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.”

“Virginia Cattlemen’s Association (VCA) thanks Congresswoman Spanberger for listening to our producers’ concerns and taking decisive action. The decline of the cattle producer’s share of beef retail value threatens the future viability of Virginia’s cattle industry.  Adding USDA oversight will help our industry meet the bipartisan goal of ensuring each segment of the food supply chain is held accountable.  VCA congratulates Rep. Spanberger on the passage of H.R. 7606 and looks forward to working with her and her team on future efforts to enhance transparency and accountability,” said Brandon Reeves, Executive Director, Virginia Cattlemen’s Association.

“At Young Farmers, we believe farming is essential to our public health and our wellbeing. At the same time, this new generation of farmers is struggling with layered challenges from land access to market access. We applaud the passage of Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) H.R. 7765, ‘American Food Supply Chain Resiliency Act of 2022,’ as part of the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act — which would codify and build on this creative and responsive investment in the success of local and regional food systems,” said David Howard, Policy Campaigns Co-Director, National Young Farmers Coalition.

Click here for a summary of the provisions found in the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act

BACKGROUND

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.

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