Cattlemen Applaud Proposal for Interstate Shipping of Meat
WASHINGTON - A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday would allow state-inspected processing plants to ship beef across state lines just like federally inspected plants. Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) introduced H.R. 2315, the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act of 2007, along with 15 other cosponsors.
Federal law requires the USDA to inspect all meat products. In the 1960s Congress created state inspection programs that are mandated to be “at least equal to” the federal inspection program. Perishable products – including milk and other dairy items, fruit, vegetables, and fish – are freely shipped across state lines after state inspection. But standard meat products, like poultry, beef, and pork, are prohibited from interstate commerce, despite decades of meeting or surpassing the federal inspection standards. This bill would remove that prohibition.
Members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) support this legislation as a way for state-regulated businesses to compete in interstate commerce and great opportunity for cattle producers and small local businesses to market branded beef products.
“It’s unfair that smaller beef producers are not able to ship and sell their products outside their own state when interstate sales of other food products aren’t restricted at all,” says Colin Woodall, NCBA’s executive director of legislative affairs. “This outdated policy hurts many of our country’s small businesses who deserve an equal right to compete in the national market.”
Currently, state-regulated meat and poultry inspection programs exist in 28 states. These programs serve about 2,000 small or very small establishments.
“State inspection programs meet the federal requirements, so it makes no sense that meat deemed safe by the state can’t be sold across state lines,” says Pomeroy. “Most state inspected meat processors are owned and operated by small businesses and they are being held back by an unnecessary provision.”
Rep. Blunt says the existing law penalizes smaller American companies while companies from as many as 30 foreign nations are permitted to sell meats freely in any state. “This issue boils down to one of fairness,” says Blunt. “If we want to open more markets up to American agriculture products abroad, we ought to start opening them at home first.”
“If my family in Texas enjoys safe, delicious beef from a local, state-inspected business in Amarillo, why can’t a family in Oklahoma buy the same beef?,” asks Woodall. “This law just doesn’t make any sense, and we commend the efforts in Congress to rectify it.”