King, Rounds determined to pursue their meat bill and others

The Hagstrom Report

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., are determined to get the Senate to consider their New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, even though they have failed so far in getting the bill added to as part of the federal government’s coronavirus response efforts.

The bill would allow meat and poultry products inspected by state programs approved by the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety Inspection Service to be sold across state lines.

In a joint interview with Rounds, King said the bill would address “a shortfall” in meat sales. “This isn’t a lowering of standards, I consider this a correction of a technical problem,” King added.

As it is now, Rounds noted in the interview, a state-inspected meat processor located near a state border can sell meat all the way across that state, but not across the state line, even if it is only 5 miles from the processing plant, Rounds noted in the interview.

“This is an example where you will find members of the Senate work across party lines,” Rounds said.

Cosponsors include Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Jon Tester, D-Mont., John Thune, R-S.D., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and Tina Smith, D-Minn.

State-inspected meat and poultry facilities are required by FSIS to be at least equal to federally inspected processing facilities, Rounds and King said in a May news release. According to USDA, 27 states operate meat and poultry inspection programs.

Products inspected by state programs are already sold for public consumption, however, they are restricted for sale within the state of inspection.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the senators quoted Dustin Oedekoven, the South Dakota state veterinarian and executive secretary of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board.

“State and federal food safety agencies have cooperated for over 50 years to ensure that state-inspected meat products are safe and wholesome,” Oedekoven said.

“State programs use the same HACCP-based food safety systems, similar pathogen sampling protocols and laboratories, and the same antemortem and postmortem inspection processes. The differences between modern state and federal meat inspection programs are not related to food safety.

“Recent supply chain disruptions related to COVID-19 demonstrate the important contribution of small state inspected establishments to the security of our nation’s food supply, and to the ongoing continuity of business to our nation’s livestock producers. It’s time to allow interstate sales of state inspected meat products to consumers nationwide.”

In their letter, King and Rounds said “It is time to end this arbitrary regulation restricting the sale of these products to within state lines and allow facilities inspected by MPI [Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection] programs to increase production and sell their product nationwide.”

“Including the New Markets for State Inspected Meat and Poultry Act in future COVID-19 relief legislation is good for producers and consumers.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., has introduced a companion bill in the House.

“Allowing state-inspected meats to be sold across state lines empowers Wyoming’s producers to access new markets while supplying the increasing demand,” Cheney said in a news release. “This legislation will increase competition and offer more meat choices for American families.”

King also noted he and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have introduced the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act, (PRIME Act), which would give individual states the option to permit intrastate distribution of custom-slaughtered meat such as beef, pork, goat or lamb to consumers, restaurants, hotels, boarding houses and grocery stores.

The bill was introduced in the House of last year by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.

And Rounds noted that he and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., are still pushing their U.S. Beef Integrity Act, which would require that only beef and beef products exclusively derived from one or more animals born, raised and slaughtered in the United States could carry a “Product of the U.S.A.” label.

Currently, FSIS allows beef from livestock born and raised in foreign countries to be labeled “Product of the U.S.A.” as long as the beef undergoes additional processing at a plant in the United States. ❖