Johnson Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Support Meat and Poultry Producers

Johnson, Cuellar Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support Meat and Poultry Producers 

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act. This legislation will allow state inspected meat to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, allowing small producers and processors more options to directly market to consumers.

“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,” said Johnson. “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.”

“America’s meat industry has been hit hard by financial challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Cuellar. “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.”

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.

This bill is supported by 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.

“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,” said Marty Smith, President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “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.”

“Through the COVID-19 pandemic we have experienced a trend for consumers wanting to source beef directly from ranchers,” said Eric Jennings, President of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. “Two of the challenges SD beef producers have faced in developing a direct sales market are a limited population of consumers and very few federally inspected processing facilities. Online sales represent an opportunity for our beef producers to expand their market beyond our limited rural population, but they have been restricted in their broader marketing efforts by prohibitions on interstate shipment of state inspected meat, coupled with few federally inspected plants. South Dakota has had an excellent state meat inspection system that is equivalent to federal meat inspection for many years. This bill will allow our producers more freedoms for interstate commerce while still providing a safe beef product for consumers. We thank Congressman Johnson for bringing forth this legislation.”

“Small, state inspected processors have filled the void for many producers this year when larger plants shut down. 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,” said Scott VanderWal, Vice President of the American Farm Bureau Federation and President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. “Consumers wishing to directly order a SD steak would be able to do just that.”

“The bill that Rep. Johnson is introducing is a step to opening up more markets for our local State Inspected Locker plants,” said Craig Andersen, President of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council. “Through the last few months these plants have gone to extraordinary levels to help keep pigs in the food chain. They are in need of extra market access for the product they produce. This bill should also make it easier for producers to harvest and give product to local charities.”

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