House Judiciary Committee Members Ask USDA To Empower Small Ranchers and Meat Processors
Six Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee have asked Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue to relax U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforcement of some meat inspection rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sickened and killed employees and USDA inspectors who work inside some of the largest U.S. meat processing plants.
In a letter last week, ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R–Ohio) and Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R–Wisc.), Ken Buck (R–Colo.), Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.), Kelly Armstrong (R–N.D.), and Gregory Steube (R–Fla.), ask Purdue to “revisit burdensome regulations that create barriers to entry and lessen competition in the nation’s meat processing industry.” It asks Purdue to take steps to bolster small ranchers and farmers and improve the resiliency of the meat supply by creating a more just playing field for small producers.
As Progressive Farmer reports, the letter asks the agency to allow smaller facilities flexibility with their HACCP plans, which are intended to establish a proactive approach to preventing foodborne illness but which often skew in favor of larger producers. The letter also asks the agency to facilitate interstate shipments of meat from state-inspected facilities, cover inspector overtime payments, and streamline some labeling rules. I’m pleased and honored to report that around 20 percent of the citations in the letter reference my own writings here and elsewhere.
The lawmakers’ appeal to Purdue comes at an extraordinary time for America’s food system. Many of the nation’s largest meat processors have been crippled by COVID-19 outbreaks in their plants. Because of massive industry consolidation, Americans get most of our meat from just a few sources.
“There are more than 800 federally inspected slaughterhouses in the United States, according to recent USDA data,” I write in my 2016 book Biting the Hands that Feed Us. “The thirteen largest
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