New legislation introduced by Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jeff Fortenberry aims to strengthen the meat processing sector. The Strengthening Local Processing Act looks to address processing issues on a more local scale. Complications related to COVID-19 highlighted concerns about the concentration of the meat processing sector. The legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 29 is designed to prevent those types of challenges from occurring in the future. The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) played a role in helping to craft the legislation.
“Small meat lockers are catalysts for economic activity. The Strengthening Local Processing Act will make it possible for these businesses to grow and expand,” CFRA Policy Director Johnathan Hladik said in a press release. “This legislation reflects the priorities of farmers and business owners from across the nation.”
Meat and poultry processing experienced a substantial bottleneck this year, creating some concerns for both industry members and consumers. The shutdown of multiple processing plants due to COVID-19 exposed the fragility within the sector. The proposed bipartisan legislation aims to expand overall processing capacity in the U.S. while assisting smaller operations. The bill is generating positive responses from several industry groups including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Bison Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, and National Farmers Union.
The Strengthening Local Processing Act will increase the federal share of costs related to state inspection from 50 to 65 percent. The bill would also increase the cost-share for Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) facilities from 60 to 80 percent. Currently, 27 states operate a state inspection program, and eight states participate in CIS. The bill also authorizes a total of $20 million for grant programs to expand meat processing training opportunities through colleges, universities, small operations, and nongovernmental organizations. The legislation also authorizes competitive grants for operations to address COVID-19 challenges.