The crisis facing small livestock farmers and ranchers is getting worse. 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.
There is a solution: the PRIME Act.
And the time to pass it is NOW, while the Senate is working on the COVID relief bill before its August recess.
The PRIME Act would allow farmers to take their animals to “custom slaughterhouses” and then sell the meat within their state, either direct to consumer or to restaurants and retailers who in turn sell direct to consumer. This means transparent, accountable meat sources to supply our local communities.
Custom slaughterhouses are already operating safely in every state, processing meat for hunters, homesteaders, and “cow share” owners. The USDA has stated that it has no reports of any foodborne illnesses linked to a custom slaughterhouse since at least 2012.
Other bills are being considered by Congress that would also make positive changes in the meat processing arena, such as allowing state-inspected meat to be shipped across state lines. But the PRIME Act is unique in its impact on decentralizing the meat processing sector.
What we need right now are more small-scale slaughterhouses available to farmers who want to sell meat to their local communities. Only the PRIME Act addresses the lack of slaughterhouse capacity for small-scale farmers. And it not only provides the most immediate relief, it’s also a vital reform for the long-term. We need scale-appropriate regulations so that we can build many more small-scale processors to diversify our food system, empowering independent farmers to feed their local communities.
Please call your U.S. Senators and urge them to include the PRIME Act, S. 1620, in the new COVID relief bill.
Even if you have called before, please call again! The Senate is working on the new COVID relief bill right now, so this is a vital time to get their attention on the PRIME Act, so we can start building a more resilient food system in this country!
TAKE ACTION #1:
Call both of your U.S. Senators and urge them to support S. 1620. You can look up who represents you at our Elected Officials Lookup page.
Below is a sample message for your call or email. Use this sample message only as a starting point – put the ideas into your own words and focus on why this is important to you. But personalized messages are the best way to convince legislators!
If you have called or emailed them already, say that – tell them that you are calling again to find out where the Senator stands because this issue is really important to you.
As a constituent, I urge Senator ____ to co-sponsor S.1620, the PRIME Act, and to include it in the current COVID relief bill.
The COVID pandemic has shone a spotlight on the problems with our consolidated meat industry. We need more small-scale farmers and independent processors, but the one-size-fits-all USDA regulations stand in the way.
Custom slaughterhouses represent a smarter, scale-sensitive approach to regulation. They must meet federal and state standards, but without some of the aspects that are unduly expensive and burdensome for small-scale operations. A typical custom slaughterhouse processes fewer animals in an entire year than a typical large plant does in a single day. Custom slaughterhouses have shown that scale-sensitive regulations work well – the USDA has no records of any foodborne illness traced to any custom slaughterhouse in the last eight years.
The PRIME Act simply allows farmers who want to sell their meat within their own state to use these custom slaughterhouses, just as they are already used by hunters and homesteaders in their state.
This would provide immediate relief for many farmers who are facing the prospect of going out of business because they must wait one to two years to get their animals processed at an inspected plant due to the COVID crisis. And in the long-term, it creates greater opportunities for new small-scale custom slaughterhouses to open, building the infrastructure we need for a more resilient, robust food systems – without spending more tax dollars.
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 meat.
Please support consumers and small farmers by passing S. 1620 as quickly as possible.
If you are a livestock producer, take a few extra minutes and ask to speak to the staffer who handles 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. And then send an email to follow up, with the sign on letter and a request that they let you know if their boss supports the bill.
If your Senators are already sponsors, thank them and ask them to push the leadership to include the bill in the next COVID response bill! You can see the Senate sponsors here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/1620/cosponsors
TAKE ACTION #2: Spread the Word
Since the big meatpacking plants were bailed out by the executive order that protected them from liability for endangering their workers, the issue of meat shortages has largely faded from the headlines. We need people to realize that the problem is NOT over!
Use the hashtags …
Tweet your Senators! We’ve set up sample Tweets that will go directly to your individual Senators just by you providing your zip code! Customize the Tweets, if you’d like. It’s a great way to get their attention!
Find and share our Facebook post at https://www.facebook.com/FarmAndRanchFreedom.
TAKE ACTION #3: Call your U.S. Representative
If you have more time, also call your U.S. Representative. You can use the same sample message for ideas, just remember to change it to asking them to co-sponsor H.R. 2859. Get their contact info at our Elected Officials Lookup page.
You can see if your Representative is already one of the 50 co-sponsors here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/2859/cosponsors.
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 who are biased against small-scale operations after decades of federal policies that told producers to “get big or get out.”
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).