The House on Thursday passed the Lower Food and Fuels Cost Act, which includes the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, by a vote of 221-204.

Six Republicans (Reps. Don Bacon, NE-2; Randy Feenstra, IA-4; Vicky Hartzler, MO-4; Ashley Hinson, IA-1; Dusty Johnson, SD-AL; Adam Kinzinger, IL-16; and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, IA-2) voted yes along with the majority of House Democrats. Five Democrats (Reps. Henry Cuellar, TX-28; Pete DeFazio, OR-4; Vicente Gonzalez, TX-15; Seth Moulton, MA-6; and Peter Welch, VT-AL) voted no. Only one Republican, Rep. Dusty Johnson, voted for the bill in the House Agriculture Committee’s markup on May 19.

The Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act would create an Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters within USDA, headed by a political appointee from the Secretary of Agriculture, with authority to investigate Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) violations. This single position would be granted authority to bring civil action at will against a meat or poultry processor for PSA violations. It also charges this office with liaising with the Department of Homeland Security on cybersecurity issues.

“The Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act is part of the latest attempt by this administration to shift the blame for inflation away from its own failed economic policies,” said NCC President Mike Brown. “The bill is duplicative, costly and severely misguided. NCC is urging the Senate to reject this controversial and partisan piece of legislation.”

NCC yesterday sent a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture in opposition to the bill in advance of a markup in the committee on June 22.

The bill was coupled for the House floor vote with five other bills, ranging from funding for the expansion of ethanol storage capacity to funding for USDA to make payments to farmers to cover the cost of nutrient management plans.

The full bill can be found here and the House floor vote total can be found here.

The House Agriculture Committee published a supplemental report to accompany H.R. 7606, which expresses the views of the minority and majority regarding the bill and specifically notes the National Chicken Council’s opposition to the bill.

“The Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act of 2022 would create a duplicative, unfunded office within the Office of the Secretary of USDA, headed by a ‘special investigator’ with a mandate to investigate packers and live poultry dealers,” the report, prepared by House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member GT Thompson (R, PA-15) said of the bill. “The investigator would be granted independent litigation authority giving them carte blanche power to file civil suits against packing companies at the whims of the Secretary without any required coordination with the Department of Justice (DOJ) – a longstanding practice required under current law.”

“The needless layers of additional bureaucracy and obvious increases to compliance costs resulting from this bill would only exacerbate the burden of record-level inflation on our farmers, ranchers, and businesses, almost assuredly resulting in higher prices for consumers in the grocery store – quite the opposite of the sponsor’s empty promises,” the report concluded.

Numerous House members (Reps. Rick Crawford, R, AR-1; Rick Allen, R, GA-12; David Rouzer, R, NC-7; GT Thompson, R, PA-15; John Rose, R, TN-6; Ronny Jackson, R, TX-13; Frank Lucas, R, OK-3; Rep. Kat Cammack, R, FL-3; Tracey Mann, R, KS-1; and Adrian Smith, R, NE-3) spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor. The video can be found here.