Rounds Urges Inclusion of New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act in COVID-19 Relief Legislation
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today urged the Senate to include his legislation, the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, in any future COVID-19 relief legislation. The bipartisan, bicameral bill would allow meat and poultry products inspected by state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines.
Excerpts of Rounds’ Remarks:
“Like so many sectors of our economy, the food production industry was ill-prepared for the unprecedented changes needed to be made when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Labor shortages and worker protection measures slowed down plants around the country and outbreaks even caused some facilities to shut down entirely.”
“While we work to get meat and pork processing facilities back up and running at capacity, we should also be utilizing state-based solutions to help offset the backlog and provide additional capacity. Specifically, we should include the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act in the next relief package.”
“At a time when our food supply is in danger, this is an easy first step.”
Full Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:
I rise today to urge the Senate to include the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act in the COVID-19 response legislation we are considering during this work period.
This is legislation I have worked on with my colleague, Senator Angus King of Maine, for several years, long before COVID-19 disrupted the safety and security of the American food supply.
COVID-19 revealed the cracks in multiple industries – our food supply, pharmaceuticals, defense and manufacturing in general.
Every American pays the price for foreign reliance. Every American.
And, this is a moment in history, when we can rebuild what made America great in the first place.
That, of course, is American production and innovation across all industries. As consumers, we should demand it.
Heavy reliance on foreign production and manufacturing is a mistake and America needs to see a renaissance in American production and ingenuity.
For example, on July 29, 2020, it was announced that JBS, a Brazilian owned company, intends to acquire the Mountain States Rosen Lamb Plant in Greeley, Colorado.
It has been reported that JBS will grind hamburger and cut steaks, which would eliminate the ability to process 350,000 lambs in the United States.
This is yet another example of a foreign company working to consolidate and integrate the American food supply system to the detriment of U.S. ag producers.
We can’t sit here and watch this occur on our watch.
We’re already paying the price for foreign ownership in our food supply system.
The time is now to aggressively pursue American options for production and processing – in order to protect American consumers and our entire economy.
Right now, we are actually giving an unfair and unnecessary advantage to the large, sometimes foreign-owned meat processing facilities.
Large facilities typically pursue licensing through the USDA federal Meat Inspection process; which gives them a certification allowing them to sell across state lines.
However, smaller processors that are trying to inject competition into a market dominated by big players, typically pursue state-inspected certifications which, unfortunately, do not allow them to sell meat across state lines.
The irony is the state process needs to be federally-approved to meet or exceed federal inspection standards.
So our smaller meat processors are achieving a certification of equal or higher standards, but are given a license with less ability to market their product.
In my hometown of Ft. Pierre, South Dakota, a beef processing company was announced to be opening in May of this year, 2020.
This is the kind of American production that we want to see.
But if this processor chooses to pursue a state-inspected meat license instead of a USDA license, they will not be able to sell across state-lines; even though South Dakota’s Meat Poultry Inspection program has standards that meet or exceed federal inspection standards.
This is unacceptable and is harming our small American processors’ ability to fairly compete.
This is why we should include the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act in our next COVID-19 relief legislation.
In recent months, partially due to the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our meat processing facilities, we’ve seen renewed support for this effort.
In the Senate, we now have 12 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.
Additionally, the companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
I would like to explain what our legislation does and why it’s so important to include as part of the federal government’s response to COVID-19.
The New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act would allow meat that has been inspected by a federally-approved state Meat Poultry Inspection program to be sold across state lines.
Currently, cattle, sheep and swine that are raised in South Dakota by some of the best producers in the world, and inspected at a South Dakota processing facility are limited to markets within the state, yet they meet or exceed federal inspection standards.
This doesn’t make any sense.
Especially when there’s high demand for locally sourced and processed proteins in a state-approved facility which, by federal law, has standards that meet or exceed federal inspection standards.
Our legislation would allow these products, which pass state inspection standards, to be sold across state lines, opening up new markets for producers and giving consumers greater choice at the grocery store.
At a time when our food supply is in danger, this is an easy first step.
Like so many sectors of our economy, the food production industry was ill-prepared for the unprecedented changes needed to be made when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Labor shortages and worker protection measures slowed down plants around the country and outbreaks even caused some facilities to shut down entirely.
We saw this happen in my home state of South Dakota, where our Sioux Falls Smithfield Plant processes 20,000 hogs a day and employs approximately 3500 individuals.
At the peak of the crisis – hog processing dropped approximately 40 percent (in May), and beef production dropped 35 percent (also in May), when compared to 2019 production levels.
At one point, there was a backlog of nearly 1 million cattle ready to be processed.
Meanwhile, grocery stores across the country began to see meat shortages on their shelves because of the chokepoint found in the concentration of beef processing at the Big Four packers, where processing capacity had been curtailed.
Livestock producers were faced with one of the worst scenarios they could face: having to euthanize their animals because they weren’t able to get them into a processing facility.
While we have been able to recover some production capacity since that time, it is far from being back to normal – and we are still unprepared to deal with the continuing pandemic.
While we work to get meat and pork processing facilities back up and running at capacity, we should also be utilizing state-based solutions to help offset the backlog and provide additional capacity.
Specifically, we should include the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act in the next relief package.
Currently, 27 states operate state meat inspection programs.
Meat and poultry inspected at these facilities are already sold for public consumption in the state where they are licensed.
Today, if you had meat or poultry processed at a South Dakota inspected facility in Hudson, South Dakota, you wouldn’t be able to sell it across the border a few miles away in Iowa, but you could sell it several hundred miles away in Lemmon, South Dakota.
It really doesn’t make much sense, especially since state meat and poultry inspection facilities are required by law to be at least equal to federally inspected processing facilities with regard to their food safety standards.
These products are safe for consumption and should be allowed to be sold nationwide.
This will help offset the pressure from federally-inspected facilities during the ongoing pandemic and in the future, as well.
This is a commonsense solution that has bipartisan, bicameral support.
It is time to end this arbitrary regulation restricting the sale of these products to within state lines and allow facilities inspected by state meat inspection programs to increase production and sell their product nationwide.
Including the New Markets for State Inspected Meat and Poultry Act in future COVID-19 relief legislation is good for producers and very good for consumers.
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