Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

New Bills Would Help Processors Meet Demand

News / FBNews July 6, 2020

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Farm Bureau is backing two recently introduced bills that would help more small meat and poultry plants sell their products in other states and better meet nationwide demand for beef, chicken and turkey.

Introduced on July 2, the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP) Act would establish a program to make facility upgrade and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to federal inspection, which will allow them to sell their products across state lines. The legislation would also require USDA to work with states and report on ways to improve the existing Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said this bill will help farmers, consumers and processors alike.

“As Congress looks at ways to make our food system more resilient for farmers and ranchers and for consumers, the American Farm Bureau Federation appreciates Chairman Peterson and Reps. Lucas and Fortenberry and others for introducing this bill to increase meat and poultry processing capacity,” Duvall said. “At the same time as this bill will help more processing facilities attain federal inspection status and ensure producers have a market for their poultry and livestock, it also ensures the safety and abundance of the food supply.”

Also in the House, the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act (H.R. 7425) would allow state inspected meat to be sold across state lines, but only through e-commerce. The bill would allow small producers and processors an additional option to directly market to consumers.

Specifically, the bill would amend the retail exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act to allow processors, butchers or other retailers to sell normal retail quantities (300 lbs. of beef, 100 lbs. of pork, 27.5 lbs. of lamb) of state inspected meat online to consumers across state lines.

The legislation would also maintain traceability of sales easily accessed in the event of a recall; allow retail sales to consumers, minimizing the risk for further processing in export and keeping equivalency agreements with trading partners intact; and allow states operating under the Cooperative Interstate Shipping system to ship and label as they are currently.

AFBF Vice President Scott VanderWal emphasized the opportunities the legislation would create for strengthening the farmer-consumer connection, while also bolstering meat processing capacity nationwide.

“Small, state inspected processors have filled the void for many producers this year when larger plants shut down. The DIRECT Act would allow state inspected plants to sell their product direct to consumers across state lines. This presents a new opportunity for producers to reach consumers directly through online sales,” said VanderWal, who also serves as president of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. “Consumers wishing to directly order a South Dakota steak would be able to do just that.”

The DIRECT Act was sponsored by Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

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Credit: Philip Gerlach, AFBF 

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