US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Opening New Markets for South Dakota Producers

Opening New Markets for South Dakota Producers
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

Agriculture is the economic engine for many communities across the upper Great Plains. Farmers and ranchers play a critical role in feeding and fueling a growing global population, and also in our national security strategy. When we can produce affordable, nutritious food here at home, we don’t have to rely on other countries to obtain it. However, ag income has been in decline over the past five years, in part due to low commodity prices. I recently introduced a bipartisan bill with Senator Angus King of Maine and Senator John Thune of South Dakota that would open up much-needed new markets for small producers and processers.

Our common sense legislation would allow meat and poultry products that have been inspected by a Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS)-approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) program to be sold across state lines. Right now, there are 27 states with inspection programs certified by FSIS, which meet or exceed federal inspection standards. However, products processed at these FSIS-approved state MPI inspected facilities are not currently allowed to be sold across state lines.

Under federal regulations, state MPI standards must be “at least equal to” federal meat and poultry inspection programs. In South Dakota, state-inspected meat products such as beef and pork are limited to markets within South Dakota despite being subject to inspections equal to or exceeding federal inspection standards.

Our bill would level the playing field for meat and poultry products while maintaining the highest quality standards for consumers. Since the state inspection standards are required by law to be equal to or better than the federal inspection standards, it makes sense to allow products that pass state inspection protocols to be sold across state lines. This legislation will create new markets for producers and processers, give consumers more choices at the grocery store and continue to maintain the high quality and safety standards necessary to keep consumers healthy.

We’re happy to have the support of prominent ag groups such as the United States Cattlemen’s Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, the South Dakota Farm Bureau, the American Farm Bureau, the South Dakota Pork Producers, the South Dakota Stockgrowers and the South Dakota Meat Inspection Program Director. We also appreciate the support of Governor Dennis Daugaard.

South Dakota farmers and ranchers consistently produce among the highest quality products in the world. Our bill opens up new markets for small South Dakota producers and gives them the opportunity to compete in markets throughout the United States. As Congress continues its work on the upcoming farm bill, we will be seeking to get our commonsense legislation included in this important legislation.

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