~ Press release from the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation
WASHINGTON — Two recently introduced bills could help more small meat and poultry plants sell their products, and help better fulfill nationwide demand for beef, chicken and turkey.
Introduced on July 2, the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants, or RAMP-UP Act, would establish a program to help existing meat and poultry processors move to federal inspection. This would will allow them to sell their products across state lines. The legislation also would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work with states and report on ways to improve the existing Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.
“This bill will help more processing facilities attain federal inspection status and ensure producers have a market for their poultry and livestock. It also ensures the safety and abundance of the food supply,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.
AFBF is backing the bill, as well as the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions, or DIRECT Act, which would allow state-inspected meat to be sold across state lines, but only through e-commerce. The bill would allow small-scale producers and processors an additional option to market directly to consumers.
“Virginia’s small livestock producers stand to benefit from the DIRECT Act because many have limited opportunities to sell their meat in Virginia, especially in light of the market disruptions caused by COVID-19,” said Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which also supports the bills. “With many farmers markets, farm stores and other direct-to-consumer outlets constrained by the pandemic, this bill would give farmers access to a much broader, national consumer base, while doing so safely through e-commerce.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of how Americans purchase food, notably increasing comfort with ordering groceries online, and receiving food shipments through e-commerce,” Rowe explained. “The DIRECT Act would allow farmers to participate in this growing market without compromising food safety or recall ability, or jeopardizing any trade market access through the equivalency agreements we have with various countries.”
The DIRECT Act also would 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 pounds of beef, 100 pounds of pork and 27.5 pounds of lamb — of state-inspected meat online to consumers across state lines.
“Small, state-inspected processors have filled the void for many producers this year when larger plants shut down,” noted AFBF Vice President Scott VanderWal. “The DIRECT Act would allow state-inspected plants to sell their product direct to consumers across state lines. This presents a new opportunity for producers to reach consumers directly through online sales.”