There’s a serious flaw in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES Act) just passed by the House: It includes a bailout for the four largest factory farm meat companies—Tyson, Cargill, JBS and Smithfield.
Congress should help independent family farmers, who are on track to lose billions as a result of the COVID-19 crisis—instead of coming up with more ways to funnel money to huge agribusiness corporations.
The 1948 CCC charter included a number of ways the USDA could provide relief to farmers, including allowing the agency to pay farmers to “remove and dispose of, or aid in the removal or disposition, of surplus agricultural commodities.”
If the HEROES Act passes as is, the CCC charter will be amended to give the USDA two new spending powers, both intended to help big corporations, not family farmers:
(h) Remove and dispose of or aid in the removal or disposition of surplus livestock and poultry due to significant supply chain interruption during an emergency period.
(i) Aid agricultural processing plants to ensure supply chain continuity during an emergency period.
These are gifts to Big Meat. Here’s why.
In the vertically integrated industrial meat system, it’s typically the big corporations that own the animals. This is especially true in the poultry industry, where independent farmers, under contracts with companies like Tyson, are forced to take all the financial risk associated with owning the land and buildings to house and raise the chicks, but Tyson owns the birds.
By amending the CCC charter to allow the USDA to pay for the “disposal” of birds due to lack of processing capacity, Tyson benefits—not the farmers raising the birds.
The other gift to Big Meat? Allowing the USDA to provide funds to companies like Smithfield so they can keep their slaughterhouses open—no matter how many COVID-19 deaths this causes.
This Big Meat bailout is just one of many ways corporate lobbyists have found to get Congress and the Trump Administration to help them profit from the pandemic.
The $2-trillion CARES Act that Congress passed in March included two tax provisions that will deliver a $160 billion windfall to the wealthiest Americans, disproportionately benefiting hedge fund and real estate investors.
Billions in Paycheck Protection Program loans meant for small businesses have been siphoned off by large, publicly traded corporations.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was given a $454 billion slush fund he “can lever up to $4 trillion” to prevent any losses from corporate balance sheets, even as tens of millions of working Americans lose their jobs, can’t pay mortgages, rents and bills, and skip meals.
Even among the rich, Trump donors are getting more than their fair share of coronavirus relief funds.
The situation is so bad that even billionaires are speaking out about how crazy—and unnecessary—it is to bailout the rich.
Public pressure has forced many companies to return coronavirus relief funds.
The original purpose of the CCC was to ensure that during times of crisis, farmers got paid and food made its way to the people who needed.
Let’s put enough heat on Congress to block the big meat bailout for Tyson, Cargill, JBS and Smithfield!