Nebraska Sen. Tom Brewer files resolution for state meat inspection program study
for Tri-State Livestock News
A Nebraska state senator on July 24 introduced a resolution to request a study that will determine the costs and benefits of a state meat inspection program.
Sen. Tom Brewer, a Republican from Gordon, who represents much of western Nebraska, is seeking an interim study that will look into re-starting the state’s meat inspection program that ceased to exist about 50 years ago.
According to Brewer’s aide, Tony Baker, the current legislative session will end Aug. 13, and the next one will start in early January. In the meantime, interim studies such as the one he’s seeking, are intended to provide information for topics of interest. Studies can also help signal to the legislative body that the leading senator plans to pursue a particular topic.
Baker said Brewer is hoping the study will determine the potential costs and benefits of a state meat inspection program. Currently, only U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected meat processors can sell meat across state lines in most states.
Seven states have achieved deals called Cooperative Interstate Shipment or CIS agreements with USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to allow qualifying plants within those states to market their products nationwide and even internationally. Essentially, the approved plants in CIS states have the same marketing capabilities as USDA inspected plants. Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin and Maine are the states with these agreements.
A Nebraska rancher, Karina Jones said the topic has been “milling around for years” and with the COVID-19 pandemic that caused severe interruptions to the processing framework, the state is even more aware of the need for this.
“Even here in the beef state, we had empty shelves during the pandemic,” she said. “Legislators are now taking a keen eye on this subject, they see that getting state inspection would help stabilize our beef chain here in Nebraska.”
“If someone calls me looking for 10 pounds of hamburger, I can’t legally sell that out of my freezer from my local processor.”
Baker said the idea is to improve the financial situation for many Nebraska residents. “More than anything this is economic development for small town and rural Nebraska. It should be easy to sell beef in the beef state.”
The concept is not expected to increase state bureaucracy or require a significant number of new employees, said Baker. One option they are considering for inspectors is to certify veterinarians in good standing to provide inspection services.
The governor of Oregon recently signed legislation to re-instate that state’s meat inspection program. Ranchers, processors and other concerned parties are working together in that state to work out details on a workable and economically feasible program. ❖