Rep. Axne Pushes Secretary Vilsack for Updates on USDA Efforts to Expand Cattle Processing Capacity, Combat the Risk of African Swine Fever

October 7, 2021
Press Release

Today, Congresswoman Cindy Axne (IA-03) pushed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack for updates on his agency’s work aimed at expanding regional cattle processing and combating the threat of African Swine Fever.

The two spoke at a hearing held today before the House Agriculture Committee on the state of the livestock industry.

Rep. Axne began her line of questioning by referencing the $500 million that USDA announced it would allocate from the American Rescue Plan in July to expand regional processing – an announcement that the Congresswoman helped make from the Rustic Cuts Butcher Shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

“I was proud to be standing next to you in Council Bluffs this summer when you announced USDA’s efforts to expand processing capacity…we all know that those resources are so desperately needed because I constantly hear from Iowa producers about the significant consolidation in the industry…as well as the lack of competition in the cash market,” said Rep. Axne. “I’m a bit concerned that these new resources could ultimately benefit the large packers…I’m wondering if you share this concern, and if so, how can the USDA implement this program to assures we can address this issue?”

“As a former governor, I do understand and appreciate the notion of clawback,” said Secretary Vilsack. “If they don’t meet those representations, they don’t meet those goals – they are required to pay all or a portion of what they receive from the state back. I think we have to structure the program in a way that we can justify to taxpayers that their resources have been used in thoughtful and appropriate way.”

Rep. Axne also touched on the recent USDA announcement of additional resources to monitor and lower the risk of an outbreak of African Swine Fever in the U.S – a move that came shortly after Axne and her colleagues urged the Secretary to use all available resources to fund ASF prevention.

“My colleagues and I recently wrote to you requesting that you leverage every single available authority in the USDA to fight against this deadly animal disease, so thank you first and foremost for your recent announcement that you would do just that,” said Rep. Axne. “Can you clarify…how these funds will be allocated? And does the Department have remaining needs for resources?”

“We are showing up and beefing up our surveillance, our detection systems,” said Secretary Vilsack. “I think we are in a place with the systems that we have in place that should, God forbid this happen, that we would be able to identify quickly – we would be able to eradicate it quickly.”

Last year, Rep. Axne led the creation of a law that increased the number of inspectors available to help prevent ASF from reaching U.S. shores.

The full clip of Rep. Axne’s time with Secretary Vilsack can be found here.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley also participated in today’s hearing. He spoke about the bill he has championed in the Senate that Axne co-led in the House last Congress to increase transparency in U.S. cattle markets and spur added price discovery and competition for Iowa producers using cash markets.

“What we’re seeing, of course, is producers being paid less. Consumers are paying more, but the packers control over 80% of the market and are making significant profits. This is absolutely not right, and not good for our country and certainly not good for Iowa’s Third District,” said Rep. Axne.

More information and the full recording of the hearing can be found here.