Are you a family farmer raising livestock? A consumer who prioritizes buying meat locally – or who would like to? A hunter or homesteader who has used a custom slaughterhouse? Congress needs to hear from you!
We’ve sent multiple action alerts to support the PRIME Act, which would remove the ban on the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses within the same state. The PRIME Act would let states allow farmers to use these slaughterhouses, which are often much closer and more accessible, rather than limiting these facilities’ services to people who raise or hunt animals for personal consumption. This means more transparent, accountable meat sources to supply our local communities.
The lack of accessible, small-scale slaughterhouses has been one of the biggest barriers to increasing production of local meat, so the PRIME Act has been needed for a long time. And with COVID, it’s become a crisis. In some areas of the country, farmers are being told that their USDA- or state-inspected slaughterhouse can’t fit them in until 2022 – two years from now! These farmers must still feed and care for their animals all that time, without getting income from them; many will go out of business simply because they cannot get their animals processed, even while consumers are clamoring for their meat.
Your calls and emails have made a difference already. More than 60 members of Congress, from both parties, have signed on as co-sponsors of the PRIME Act. But our efforts to get it into the COVID relief bills have been unsuccessful so far. Partly, that’s because the politics around the COVID relief bills have become terribly contentious. And partly it’s because many members of Congress are not convinced of the need for the PRIME Act, especially when they hear the opposition from Big Agribusiness and some so-called consumer groups.
So what can we do? Make it personal.
Personal, individual letters about why an issue matters to a constituent are one of the most powerful tools for a grassroots movement. It doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be something that conveys how important the issue is to the individual and why.
More information about the PRIME Act can be found below, following the Take Action section.
Please email your U.S. Representative and both Senators to tell them why the PRIME Act is important to you, whether as a farmer, consumer, or local food advocate.
Even if you have contacted them before, please do it again!
We are NOT providing a sample or template letter this time. Write a from-scratch letter of your own about why the PRIME Act matters to you. It doesn’t have to be long – just entirely in your own words. Be as specific as possible about how the lack of accessible, affordable slaughterhouses affects you, your family, or your business.
An easy way to send the message is using https://fiscalnote.com/find-your-legislator, which will allow you to send the same message to all your federally elected officials at one time (but with no pre-written form letter). You enter your address, and then select your Representative and both Senators from the list of federal officials. Write your letter in the box provided, and then fill in your contact information.
Focus on your personal story – and remember to specifically ask them to pass the PRIME Act, H.R. 2859 / S.1620.
While we usually encourage phone calls instead of emails, for this approach, emails work best.
To see if your legislators are already sponsors, go to:
Federal regulations take a one-size-fits-all approach that has favored the largest meatpackers – despite the fact that they have caused numerous foodborne illness outbreaks. Small-scale processors struggle to deal with the regulations, particularly as they are applied by USDA inspectors. After decades of federal policies that told producers to “get big or get out,” inspector bias against small-scale operations is engrained.
As a result, small-scale livestock farmers have few places they can take their animals for processing. In some areas of the country, the nearest USDA or equivalent state facility may be several hours’ drive away or more.
There are alternatives, known as “custom slaughterhouses,” which legally operate in many states. But the meat from them can only be provided back to – and consumed by the family of – the person who owned the animal when it entered the slaughterhouse. 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.
The PRIME Act repeals the federal ban on the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses, allowing flexibility for states to permit producers to sell meat processed at a custom slaughterhouse within the state.
Custom slaughterhouses are, and will remain, subject to federal regulations, as well as state regulations. They are, and will continue to be, inspected by government agencies, although they do not have to have an inspector on-site during the actual processing (making them similar to the way most food is processed in this country).
READ MORE ABOUT THE PRIME ACT: