Hawaii Attorney General Holly Shikada has joined 16 of her contemporaries in recommending measures to increase competition in the slaughterhouse industry.

The coalition of attorneys general sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack raising concerns about a need for increased industry competition and offering aid to the USDA’s enforcement measures.

The letter comes after $1 billion of American Rescue Plan funds were allocated to USDA for the expansion of the independent meat processing industry, and to address inordinate power dynamics by large processors.

A coalition of attorneys general sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack raising concerns about a need for increased industry competition. Courtesy: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons

The attorneys general recommended USDA consider how market concentration results in higher prices for consumers and lower pay for producers, continue investing in new entrants into the industry, and establish a grant with American Rescue Plan funds that antitrust enforcers could use to investigate agricultural markets.

The group also recommended that USDA update regulations on information-sharing by companies.

In Hawaii, a divisive bill was introduced in the 2021 legislative session related to anti-competitive practices in the meat processing industry after Idaho billionaire Frank VanderSloot acquired a majority of slaughter facilities in Hawaii. The bill failed.

But the federal act should ensure fairness for Hawaii’s farmers and ranchers, according to Shikada.

“This in turn will benefit Hawaii’s consumers by making prices more affordable and providing producers with the ability to get the best price for their product,” Shikada said.

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