Johnson & Cuellar: State Inspected Meat Should Be Sold Online

January 28, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act. This legislation will allow state inspected meat to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, allowing small producers and processors more options to directly market to consumers.

“Today, a few large players have too much control over our meat supply chains. In many states, state meat inspection is every bit as good as federal meat inspection,” said Johnson. “The DIRECT Act would unlock the entrepreneurship of state-inspected processors without compromising food safety.”

“Our nation’s meat industry has been devastated by the economic fallout resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” said Congressman Cuellar. “The bipartisan legislation will allow meat inspected by the State to be sold online and across state lines, opening up new markets for meat producers and processors. As a senior member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Appropriations, I will continue to provide the necessary support to the meat industry so they are able to make it through this crisis and continue to be an integral part of feeding American families. I want to thank Congressman Dusty Johnson for his leadership on this critical issue.”

The DIRECT Act will:

  • Amend the retail exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act to allow processors, butchers or other retailers to sell normal retail quantities (300 lbs. of beef, 100 lbs. of pork, 27.5 lbs. of lamb) of State Inspected Meat online to consumers across state lines.
  • Allow new direct-to-consumer options for producers, processors and small meat markets.
  • Maintains traceability of sales easily accessed in the event of a recall.
  • Allows retail sales to consumers, minimizing the risk for further processing in export, keeping equivalency agreements with trading partners intact.
  • 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. Two of the challenges SD beef producers have faced in developing a direct sales market are a limited population of consumers and very few federally inspected processing facilities. Online sales represent an opportunity for our beef producers to expand their market beyond our limited rural population, but they have been restricted in their broader marketing efforts by prohibitions on interstate shipment of state inspected meat, coupled with few federally inspected plants. South Dakota has had an excellent state meat inspection system that is equivalent to federal meat inspection for many years. This bill will allow our producers more freedoms for interstate commerce while still providing a safe beef product for consumers. We thank Congressman Johnson for bringing forth this legislation.” – Eric Jennings, President of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.

The DIRECT Act would cut red tape to allow state inspected retail establishments to sell their product direct to consumers across state lines. This presents a new opportunity for producers to reach consumers directly through online sales. Consumers wishing to directly order a South Dakota steak would be able to do just that.” – Scott VanderWal, Vice President of the American Farm Bureau Federation and President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau

“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. Thank you to Representatives Johnson and Cuellar for recognizing the shifts in an ever-changing market and introducing this critical legislation.” – NCBA Policy Division Chair and South Dakota rancher Todd Wilkinson

“There is no reason a steak should be more difficult to order online than any other items on your grocery list. With consumers moving their food purchases online, the DIRECT Act provides a safe, predictable pathway for state-inspected meat products to be sold across state lines through e-commerce. This allows independent producers and processors to expand their market reach – increasing competition in the meatpacking sector and opening up new opportunities for state-inspected facilities. USCA thanks Congressman Dusty Johnson for continuing to put forth these innovative market solutions.” – U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s Independent Beef Processors Task Force Chairman Patrick Robinette

“Meat and poultry produced under state inspection programs have an excellent record of food safety.  The DIRECT Act is a step in the right direction towards opening up interstate markets for state inspected meat and poultry products, and will create opportunities for small processors to expand their markets to virtual shoppers across the U.S.” – Dustin Oedekoven, DVM, DACVPM, State Veterinarian and Executive Secretary of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board

“Over the last year the need for our local state inspected plants to have access to customers across state lines has become more evident.  Due to Covid-19 many consumers couldn't get meat for their families because the store shelves were bare and consumers were reaching out looking to buy locally raised and processed.  E-commerce sales have been increasing in popularity. These sales offer great opportunity to farmers and local butcher shops to market their products. Many of our local butcher shops have developed specialty products and with our state inspection program being equal to exceeding the federal inspection standards the ability to sell meat across state lines would help promote an increase in sales. Any way we can increase sales, or make our products more readily available to consumers is a win/win situation for farmers, small businesses, and our consumers.” – Shane Odegaard, President, South Dakota Pork Producers Council

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