Strengthening Local Process Act Introduced
A bipartisan proposal from Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R. NE) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D. ME) seeks to expand the processing capacity for smaller meat and poultry producers. The Strengthening Local Process Act would help smaller facilities expand to meet the current demand and adapt to the changes produced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under federal law, to sell individual cuts of locally raised meats, the farmer must first send their animals to one of a limited number of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or state-inspected slaughterhouses. These slaughterhouses are sometimes hundreds of miles away. As a result, smaller meat and poultry processing plants are reserved for months, and small farms are unable to meet new demand due to a lack of processing capacity.
The Act would increase the federal shares of cost for state inspection from 50 to 65% and for Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) facilities, from 60 to 80 percent, therefore emboldening 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 organizations, 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 the 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.
Many industry leaders have shown their support for the act. Kelly Nuckolls, Policy Specialist from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition stated, “This bill is a strong step towards ensuring scale-appropriate regulations and support for small plants that maintain and pursue federal and state inspection.” U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Independent Processing Committee Chairman Patrick Robinette said, “The Local Strengthening Processing Act includes the technical assistance and cost-share programs needed to increase independent meat processing capacity. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association recently launched a new committee tasked with ensuring the profitability and sustainability of independent state and federally-inspected processing plants, and we commend Congresswoman Pingree for bringing forward this set of solutions that helps bring us closer to accomplishing that goal.”