Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association applauds two bills that are set to provide more opportunities for beef processing and availability

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Fort Worth, Texas based organization, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), announced that they are happy with two bills that will “expand the options available to meat processors and increase the availability of beef to consumers.”

The first bill is the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act of 2020 was introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) of Texas and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R) of South Dakota.

According to the TSCRA, this bill would allow meat processed at state-inspected facilities to be sold directly to consumers across state lines through e-commerce.

The other bill is the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants (RAMP UP) Act.

According to the TSCRA, this bill would provide federal grants for existing meat processors to move from state to federal inspection, which will similarly allow for increased interstate meat sales.

Robert E. McKnight, Jr., president of the TSCRA released this statement regarding the bills.

The supply chain challenges brought about by COVID-19 left many consumers hungry for beef they could not find. Despite the retail demand, cattle producers could not sell their cattle because of the reduced processing capacity. Although temporary, the slowdowns at major beef packers highlighted the need for additional capacity and regulatory flexibility at smaller meat processors. On behalf of beef producers and consumers across the nation, I applaud Congress for acting quickly to ensure we have the tools necessary to weather any future crisis we may face. Most importantly, both the DIRECT and RAMP UP Acts expand options without compromising the strict safety standards we expect. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association is grateful to the broad, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who introduced the bills, and would like to especially thank Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma for their steadfast support of American ranchers.”

In a press release from Rep. Dusty Johnson, both he and Rep. Henry Cuellar shared their thoughts about the acts.

“As a result of COVID-19, meat processing plants across the country have been forced to close or slow operations and as a result we’ve seen a renaissance in small processors. Many states, including South Dakota, have inspection standards that are at least equal to what the federal government requires. This bill cuts through red tape and allows producers, processors and retailers to sell state inspected meat and poultry direct to consumers through online stores across state lines,” Johnson said.

“America’s meat industry has been hit hard by financial challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The bipartisan legislation will open up new markets for meat producers and processors by allowing meat inspected by the State to be sold online and across state lines. As a senior member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Appropriations, I will continue to fight for the men and women who work every day to keep food on our table during these unprecedented times. I want to thank Congressman Dusty Johnson for his commitment to supporting our meat industry,” Cuellar said.

The representatives also elaborated on what the DIRECT Act will do.

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.

According to the representatives, the DIRECT Act has garnered support from organizations like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, SD Pork Producers Council and South Dakota Farm Bureau.

Marty Smith, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association commented on the Act stating:

“Over the past few months, more Americans looked to e-commerce to purchase essential goods like beef and an already booming online marketplace further evolved to facilitate purchases and meet consumer demands. The American beef supply chain must evolve to keep up with the speed of commerce and the demands of modern-day consumers. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act because it helps make it easier for the American cattle producer to meet the growing demand of the American consumer to purchase safe and delicious U.S. beef,” Smith said.

These bills come as many American ranchers face ongoing issues, one being what they refer to as a monopolized market.

“There’s only about four meat processors left in the world, so they have a monopoly on that,” Corey Owens, Senior Instructor of Animal Science at Angelo State University said.

According to Owens, these large-scale meat processors often buy the cheapest products to keep their costs down which means, many of their products do not originate from the United States and American farmers and ranchers are feeling the loss.

For more on Country of Origin Labels, beef prices, and ongoing struggles for American ranchers, click here.

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