Want more access to local meats? Two ways to help!

Why is it so hard to find locally grown meats?

Even as the local and sustainable food movement has grown by leaps and bounds, it is often hard to find good quality meat from local farmers.

One of the main reasons is the lack of local processing facilities, a vital step in the process of getting from farm to plate. USDA regulations are designed for massive, industrial-scale facilities, making it difficult or sometimes even impossible for small-scale facilities to comply. And federal law requires that “state inspected” facilities use the exact same USDA standards, leaving no flexibility for states to work with.

This problem could become even worse – or better – depending on what laws and regulations change in the coming year. You have two opportunities to help stop bad changes and promote good ones, now.

The BAD

If you recall from our recent alert, USDA’s FSIS is proposing changes to how frequently it samples ground beef for salmonella. But this is not to stop the meat from entering the food supply based on the risk posed. Instead, it’s testing for even the tiniest traces of salmonella to serve as a “double check” on the processor’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).

If any contamination is found, the agency comes back with demands that the processor change its HACCP. Large processors can weather these issues easily, with their teams of lawyers and consultants – but small processors are often driven out of business, even when there is no real health risk. 

FSIS needs to adjust the sampling frequency based on the size of the operation and its processes. The agency is accepting public comments until December 27, and we have more details – including how to add your comment – at http://farmandranchfreedom.org/fsis-salmonella-standards/.

The GOOD

The PRIME Act now has 22 co-sponsors! This bill repeals the federal ban on the sale of meat from what are known as “custom slaughterhouses.” These are facilities that meet state regulations, but that do not meet the federal requirements for an “inspected facility,” which include not only standards for the facility and its operations, but the requirement that an inspector be on site at the time the animals are processed.

Custom slaughterhouses are already legally operating in numerous states, but the meat from the animals can only go back to the person who owned the animal when it entered the slaughterhouse – it cannot be sold. So, a farmer who wants to sell his or her beef, lamb, goat, or pork to consumers at a local farmers’ market or other local outlet cannot use a custom slaughterhouse. Instead, the farmer has to haul their animals – at times over long distances – to a USDA- or state-inspected facility.

The PRIME Act returns control to the states to address the issue of meat processing. States would be able to permit producers to sell meat processed at a custom slaughterhouse direct to consumers or wholesale within the state. States could choose to impose whatever conditions or limitations that best suited their agricultural, food system, and social conditions.

The PRIME Act is a win-win-win by:

  • Reducing regulatory burdens on small businesses.
  • Increasing consumers’ access to locally raised meats.
  • Reducing transportation miles and greenhouse gases.
  • Improving farmers’ incomes and opportunities.
  • Reducing stress on animals that comes from hauling over long miles.
  • Reducing federal regulatory overreach and supporting state-level control.

The bi-partisan support for the bill is great, but we need a much longer list of sponsors if we want a chance at pushing the bill forward in 2020. Will you help?


TAKE ACTION:

Call your U.S. Representative and Senators and urge them to sign on to H.R. 2859 and S. 1620.  You can look up who represents you at https://www.congress.gov/ or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Below is a sample message for your call or email. Remember that calls have a greater impact, and only take a couple of minutes. Use this sample message as a starting point – tailor it to your own language and focus on why this issue is important to you. Personalized messages are the best way to convince legislators!

As a constituent, I urge Representative ____ to co-sponsor H.R. 2859, the PRIME Act. [OR: I urge Senator ___ to co-sponsor S.1620, the PRIME Act.]

This bill opens up more options for small farms and ranches, and thus for the consumers who want to buy from them. The bill simply removes the federal ban on the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses directly to consumers and to venues serving consumers within a state, subject to state law. This returns power to the states to establish a regulatory scheme that makes sense for their citizens.

The PRIME Act supports local food production and small businesses, while also reducing vehicle miles traveled with livestock trailers and helping to meet the consumer demand for locally raised foods. 

Please support our local farmers and consumer choice by co-sponsoring H.R. 2859.

Name
City, State

If you are a livestock producer, take a few extra minutes by calling and asking to speak to the staffer handling agricultural issues. Briefly explain to the staffer any problems you have faced with lack of access to inspected slaughterhouses and how the PRIME Act would help your business and benefit your customers.

NOTE: If your Representative is already a co-sponsor, be sure to say, “Thank you!” when you call.

H.R. 2859 co-sponsors:

Justin Amash (R-MI)Steve King (R-IA)
Andy Biggs (R-AZ)Thomas Massie (R-KY)
Joe Courtney (D-CT)Mark Meadows (R-NC)
Rodney Davis (R-IL)Scott Perry (R-PA)
Jeff Duncan (R-SC)Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Matt Gaetz (R-FL)Lloyd Smucker (R-PA)
John Garamendi (D-CA)Elise Stefanik (R-NY)
Jared Golden (D-ME)Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)
Mark Green (R-TN)Robert Wittman (R-VA)
Jared Huffman (D-CA) 

S. 1620 was filed Senator Angus King (I-ME) and is co-sponsored by Rand Paul (R-KY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Thank you for taking action!