Johnson wants South Dakota meat processors to sell their products online

January 29, 2021
In The News

Small South Dakota meat processors could soon sell their products in all 50 states if legislation introduced Wednesday by Rep. Dusty Johnson can receive a majority vote in the U.S. House and Senate.

Co-sponsored by Henry Cueller, D-Texas, the bipartisan Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act would allow small amounts of state-inspected meat to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, effectively opening a greater market for South Dakota beef, pork, lamb and poultry through the use of online platforms.

Johnson first filed the bill in 2019, but it did not pass. After continuing to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he says he's confident that it can be brought into law in 2020.

Thirty-four state-inspected meat processors exist in the state and are only allowed to sell their products to buyers inside South Dakota, according to the state’s Animal Industry Board. Only facilities inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are allowed to sell meat products across state lines.

Johnson says the DIRECT Act would unlock entrepreneurship for state-inspected processors, without compromising food safety.

"E-commerce is such an important component of this, as it makes it easy to trace down if we had a food security or food safety issue," Jonson said in a press conference Thursday.

While the DIRECT Act would expand marketing possibilities for state-inspected processors, they still would not be allowed to sell to out-of-state retail suppliers or to consumers in bulk amounts. The Act would limit them to selling retail-sized quantities, which are defined as 300 pounds of beef, 100 pounds of pork and 27.5 pounds of lamb.

According to a news release, additional aspects of the DIRECT Act will:

  • Allow new direct-to-consumer options for producers, processors and small meat markets
  • Maintain traceability of sales to be accessed in the event of a recall
  • Allow states operating under the Cooperative Interstate Shipping system to ship and label as they are currently.

“Through the COVID-19 pandemic we have experienced a trend for consumers wanting to source beef directly from ranchers,” Eric Jennings, president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, said in a news release. “Online sales represent an opportunity for our beef producers to expand their market beyond our limited rural population.”

Johnson served on the House Agriculture Committee in his first term, but has since moved to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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