Lawmakers introduce legislation to allow additional meat sales across state lines

Lawmakers introduce legislation to allow additional meat sales across state lines
Lawmakers in both the U.S House and Senate have introduced legislation to allow state-inspected meat to be sold across state borders. (Source: Gray DC)

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Lawmakers in both the U.S House and Senate have introduced legislation to allow state-inspected meat to be sold across state borders.

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, signed onto the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act. She says it would lift the ban on interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and will allow small processors to compete for business across state lines.

“I think the more competition we have and the more opportunities we create for these smaller processors, the better off everyone is going to be,” said Smith.

Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) introduced similar legislation in the House, titled the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act. His bill also aims to allow state-inspected meat to be sold online.

“We have state-inspected facilities that are healthy, that are good, that are food safe,” said Johnson. “We should be able to have them sell across state lines directly to consumers.”

Currently, there are three types of meat and poultry inspection services sold for human consumption.

Meat inspected through the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is allowed to be sold across state lines and exported.

Products inspected through the Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) Program are treated as federally inspected and are also allowed to be sold across state lines and exported.

Meat and poultry products processed through the federally approved Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) program, however, do not receive a federal inspection stamp and cannot be sold across state borders.

You can read more about the programs here.

Both of the current bills are bipartisan, however, similar legislation from the past has not advanced through Congress. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced legislation on this topic in 2018.

Both lawmakers and supporters say they are hopeful that momentum for the measure will grow in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the meat-packing industry.

“We really need to step back and rebuild the regional food delivery system,” said Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish.

According to Wertish, when the pandemic swept over Minnesota’s meat-packing industry, it temporarily closed large processing plants and exposed some shortfalls in the supply chain.

“It really showed how we are so reliant on a few large processing facilities to supply the vast quantity of our foods,” said Wertish.

Wertish says, if passed, the legislation will allow farmers more opportunities to market their animals.

Neither bill would allow the state-inspected products to be exported.

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