Pingree, Fortenberry, Thune, Merkley Introduce Legislation to Expand & Strengthen Local Meat Processing Capabilities
Washington, February 23, 2021
Tags: Food and Agriculture
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), joined by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to support small meat and poultry processors. The Strengthening Local Processing Act will increase options for local livestock and poultry producers and assist smaller facilities as they adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and expand to meet consumer demand. The legislation is also cosponsored by Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.) and Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Angus King (I-Maine), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.).
“The lack of processing infrastructure is one of the top concerns I hear from Maine’s small livestock producers. Their livelihood depends on having somewhere to take their animals,” said Pingree. “The Strengthening Local Processing Act will support increased slaughter and processing capacity in Maine, enhance opportunities for local producers, help small slaughterhouses and butchers grow their businesses, and provide consumers with the locally-raised meat and poultry they are asking for.”
“There is a broadening concern over corporate concentration in the meatpacking industry. In a previous time, we had more local meat processing. This bill helps stimulate a return to that previous model, creating a robust market in local economies, linking the farm to the family,” said Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Oregon’s family ranchers shouldn’t be at the mercy of giant conglomerates when they go to process their products,” said Merkley. “By strengthening local processors, we can ensure greater competition, help keep food local, and make it a little bit easier for family ranchers to thrive in a challenging market.”
“The pandemic highlighted significant vulnerabilities in our nation’s food supply chain, especially when it comes to meat processing capacity,” said Thune. “South Dakota’s producers work hard to raise high-quality livestock, and we need to invest in expanding processing capacity to help meet consumer demand for their products. I’m proud to team up with Sen. Merkley and Reps. Pingree and Fortenberry on this bipartisan legislation to support to America’s small meat and poultry processors and help strengthen and streamline their operations.”
Under federal law, in order for a farmer or rancher to sell individual cuts of locally raised meats they must first send their animals to one of a limited number of U.S. Department of Agriculture or state-inspected slaughterhouses. These slaughterhouses are sometimes hundreds of miles away and there are far too few of them across the nation. As a result, many smaller meat and poultry processing plants are booked out for months, and small farms are unable meet new demand due to a lack of processing capacity.
The Strengthening Local Processing Act will increase the federal share of costs for state inspection from 50 to 65 percent and for Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) facilities from 60 to 80 percent, thus encouraging more states to operate state inspection programs and participate in CIS. There are currently 27 states that operate a state inspection program and eight states that participate in CIS. The legislation would also authorize competitive grants to small and very small establishments, state inspected facilities, custom exempt facilities, or new small-scale slaughter facilities for activities related to COVID-19 response and recovery. It would also authorize a new $10 million grant program for colleges and universities to establish or expand meat processing training program and a new $10 million grant program for small and very small establishments or nongovernmental organizations to offset the cost of training new meat processors.
Read statements of support for the Strengthening Local Processing Act below:
“The pandemic and other interruptions in marketing flows confirmed something farmers have known for some time: there’s a severe shortage of local and regional meat processing. All too often farmers have to transport their livestock hundreds of miles which also makes our food supply vulnerable to further disruption. By providing financial and technical assistance to local slaughter facilities, helping small to mid-sized processors access interstate markets, and expanding career training for jobs in the meat sector, the Strengthening Local Processing Act is an important step towards strengthening local food systems and will give farmers more convenient livestock marketing options.” – Rob Larew, National Farmers Union President
“USCA members are independent local, state, and federal meat processors that work every day to ensure that American beef is widely available on every American plate. We value the independent processors’ role in our supply chain and seek out opportunities for them to be successful in their operations. The Strengthening Local Processing Act does just that by providing the technical assistance and cost-share programs needed to increase independent meat processing capacity. USCA supports the solutions brought forth by Congresswoman Pingree in this bill to strengthen the security of our nation’s food supply.”- Patrick Robinette, Independent Processing Committee Chairman, United States Cattlemen’s Association
"Local processors play a fundamental role in a small livestock producer’s business plan. Producers sell their product directly to the consumer and view local processors as a trusted partner. The Strengthening Local Processing Act will ensure that relationship remains strong, benefitting farms and communities alike."- Johnathan Hladik, Policy Director Center for Rural Affairs
"The Strengthening Local Processing Act addresses the most critical needs facing small local processors and lays a foundation for sustainable growth towards solving the capacity issues within our industry." Chris Young, Executive Director, American Association of Meat Processors
"As we begin to move beyond the COVID pandemic, it is increasingly apparent that many consumers will continue to seek locally raised meat products processed in smaller facilities. This legislation is critically needed to make sure that the meat processors can forge those links between ranchers and their customers." Dave Carter, Executive Director, National Bison Association
“Based on NMPAN’s 12 years of research, education, and providing technical assistance related to the viability of small and mid-scale meat processors, our organization finds that the provisions of the proposed "Strengthening Local Processing Act" are thoughtfully designed and will address persistent challenges that our processor members frequently share with us. We think it gets at some of the core and complex challenges in the sector that many other bills have not addressed.” – Rebecca Thistlethwaite, Director, Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition thanks Representative Pingree, Representative Fortenberry, Senator Thune, Senator Merkley, and all of the co-sponsors for their support of the Strengthening Local Processing Act, which is much-needed at a time when farmers cannot access slaughter dates for 12-24 months. Small plants play a critical role in ensuring farmers and ranchers are able to process their products, especially during the increase in demand for more local and regional meat and poultry during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill is a strong step towards ensuring small scale, community based plants are able to thrive and expand at a time when their capacity is stretched thin.” – Kelly Nuckolls, Policy Specialist, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Pingree is an organic farmer who raises grass-fed beef and chickens on her island farm in North Haven, Maine. She is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. Pingree is the co-author of the PRIME Act, legislation that would remove hurdles for small livestock farmers by allowing them to sell their locally raised, custom-exempt processed, meat directly to consumers.