July 29, 2021

PRIME Act Introduced

PRIME Act Introduced

The Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act (PRIME Act) was re-introduced to the House by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY). The same bill was also introduced to the Senate by Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Rand Paul (R-KY). The PRIME Act would expand the exemption of custom slaughtering of animals from federal inspection requirements. 

Currently, exemptions occur if the meat is slaughtered for a person, household, guest, or employee use. This creates issues for small farmers because to sell individual cuts of locally raised meats, farmers and ranchers must first send their animals to one of a limited number of state or USDA-inspected slaughterhouses. This additional step creates issues such as substantial transportation costs and stress on the animals. The PRIME bill would extend the exemption to consumers, restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, and grocery stores, and shift the oversight to the states. “The PRIME Act will make it easier for farmers to sell and consumers to buy locally produced meat,” Senator Paul said.

“Current federal laws and regulations—designed for large regional packers—create insurmountable economic barriers that keep local outfits from competing in the market,” said Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), a supporter of the bill. “By removing some of those barriers, local meat processors can rejoin local markets, processing backlogs can be alleviated, and meat prices at the local grocery store can stabilize.”

The PRIME Act has been introduced in the House and Senate several times. Senator King and Representative Massie introduced the act into the Senate and House, respectively, in 2016, 2017, and 2019. In the House, the PRIME Act was referred to the House Committee of Agriculture, then to the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. In the Senate, the bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Each time, no further action was taken. 

When the PRIME Act was introduced in 2019, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) took a stance against the act. “Even under the most optimistic assumptions, the capacity of these custom facilities to slaughter and process livestock amounts to a small fraction of one percent of the nation’s red meat supply. Any economic impact on the livestock market for farmers and meat supply would be negligible. However, The PRIME Act would set a dangerous precedent by authorizing the commercial sale of non-inspected meat products.  It would create a serious loophole that would compromise the U.S. food safety system and consumers’ confidence in it.”  

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is also against the PRIME Act, stating “NPPC is opposed to the PRIME Act because it would allow for the commercial sale of non-inspected meat products. [The United States Department of Agriculture’s] USDA fully equivalent state inspection systems are essential partners, along with producers, packers, and processors, in delivering safe meat products that consumers can enjoy with confidence. Federal and state inspection programs also are a key component in protecting animal health by ensuring that every animal offered for commercial slaughter is inspected for signs of disease, in particular foreign animal diseases that pose a significant threat to the viability of American agriculture.” 

The PRIME Act is supported by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and the Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance.