Forward progress of the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act of 2022 is generating mixed responses from the agricultural industry. The legislation, H.R. 7606, was recently approved by the House Agriculture Committee. If passed, the legislation would establish a new special investigator position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). An Office of the Special Investigator within USDA would be granted authority to investigate and prosecute violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act. Industry groups including the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) criticized the legislation as being redundant and costly.
“We are disappointed in the Committee’s vote to approve this bill despite opposition from the Meat Institute and the nation’s largest livestock producer organizations,” NAMI President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said in a statement. “USDA and the Department of Justice already have the authorities this bill would grant making this expansion of government bureaucracy with its required staff and offices duplicative and wasteful.”
Some committee Republicans also raised concerns about the duplicative nature of the bill. A division tasked with enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act already currently exists within USDA. NCBA highlighted the potential for a new special investigator to undercut the role of the Department of Justice, as the position would have both prosecutorial and subpoena power. However, at the same time farming groups such as the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and the National Farmers Union (NFU) have expressed support for the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act.
“NFU members traveled to Washington, D.C. in late April to advocate for this and other priorities, and it is especially encouraging to see the bill make its way further through the legislative process,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “While there are many more measures needed to ensure a fair marketplace, the action during this week’s House Agriculture Committee markup is a big step forward.”
The legislation is now headed to the full House for consideration.