June 16, 2006
June 16, 2006 -- Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) on Thursday introduced legislation S. 3519, the Agriculture Small Business Opportunity and Enhancement Act. The bill would allow interstate sales of state-inspected meat and poultry and ensure that these products are inspected under a seamless national inspection system.
A broad-based coalition of agricultural and farm organizations support the senators and this legislation and urge Congress to take prompt action.
Federal law requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to inspect all meat products slaughtered for human consumption and in the late 1960s Congress created state inspection programs that are mandated to be "at least equal to" the federal-inspection program. There are nearly 2,000 state-inspected plants nationwide, largely run by small businesses that cater to the needs of small, family-run farms and ranches.
The coalition believes that removing the current ban on interstate shipment will level the economic playing field for small businesses, spur more competition in the marketplace, create a more uniform inspection system and further enhance food safety and consumer confidence in the food supply.
They further note that the legislation would also ensure fairness in trade. Foreign-produced meat and poultry products can be freely shipped and sold anywhere in the United states as long as that country's foreign-inspection program is equivalent to U.S. federal standards.
Hatch commented, "It's absurd that meat inspected overseas can be shipped anywhere in the United States without restriction, but ? small businesses are prohibited from shipping their products across state lines. They meet the same food safety requirements. We shouldn't hold (our own) meat producers at a different standard than their foreign competitors."
The American Sheep Industry Association is a longstanding coalition member is this endeavor. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33