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DIRECT Act 2021 Introduced

The Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act of 2021 was introduced to the House by Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) to expand opportunities for small and very small meat processors who proved essential as larger facilities closed due to COVID-19. The DIRECT Act would allow retail quantities of meat processed under state-inspection to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, providing beef producers and local processors alike with more options to market direct-to-consumers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted an urgent need for our industry to expand opportunities for state-inspected meatpackers. NCBA acted quickly last year, advocating to allow more beef to be safely sold online across state lines. The DIRECT Act will allow cattle producers and smaller beef processors to more easily evolve to meet the growing demand for e-commerce sales,” said National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Policy Division Chair and South Dakota rancher Todd Wilkinson. “Thank you to Representatives Johnson and Cuellar for recognizing the shifts in an ever-changing market and introducing this critical legislation."

Many states currently have State Meat and Poultry Inspection programs approved by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as “at least equal to” standards set under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). Under the existing framework, however, state-inspected products can only be sold interstate if approved to do so under the Cooperative Interstate Shipping Program.

The DIRECT Act would amend the retail exemption under the FMIA and PPIA to allow processors, butchers, or other retailers to sell normal retail quantities, such as 300 lbs. of beef, 100 lbs. of pork, or 27.5 lbs. of lamb, of MPI State Inspected Meat online to consumers across state lines. The Act would also include clear prohibitions on export, keeping equivalency agreements with trading partners intact.

“A lot of people want a more open meat market,” Representative Johnson said. “Our bill strikes the right balance in opening that market up while still maintaining an easy ability to be able to respond to food safety issues.”