The problems in the conventional food system are becoming more obvious and harder for the government to ignore. People within both USDA and Congress are talking about the need to diversify our food system, especially the livestock and meat industry. Bills have been filed and executive actions announced on antitrust issues to rein in certain abuses of the big meatpackers, as well as grant programs to help small-scale processors expand their operations.
But while the latter will help small-scale processors handle the expense and burdens of federal regulations, it doesn’t address the underlying issue: that the regulations are ill-suited for small-scale operations. It’s a bit like paying someone to roll a boulder up a hill, instead of looking for an alternative route to take that doesn’t require going up the hill.
The PRIME Act would build just such an alternative route. This simple bill would allow farmers to take their animals to “custom slaughterhouses” and then sell the meat within their state, either direct to consumer or to restaurants and retailers who in turn sell direct to consumer. This means transparent, accountable meat sources to supply our local communities.
After years of fighting for more options for small-scale livestock producers, we are making progress. Last year, the PRIME Act gained dozens of new co-sponsors in Congress and garnered more attention than ever before.
Please help us keep up the momentum and move the PRIME Act forward in the new Congress!
TAKE ACTION #1:
Call your U.S. Representative and both of your U.S. Senators and urge them to sign on to H.R. 3835/ S.2001. You can look up who represents you at https://www.congress.gov/ or call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Below is a sample message for your call or email. Use this sample message only as a starting point – put the ideas into your own words and focus on why this is important to you. Personalized messages are the best way to convince legislators!
As a constituent, I urge Senator (or Representative) ____ to co-sponsor S.2001/ H.R. 3835, the PRIME Act.
The COVID pandemic shone a spotlight on the problems with our consolidated meat industry. We need more small-scale farmers and independent processors, but the one-size-fits-all USDA regulations stand in the way.
Custom slaughterhouses represent a smarter, scale-sensitive approach to regulation. They must meet federal and state standards, but without some of the aspects that are unduly expensive and burdensome for small-scale operations. A typical custom slaughterhouse processes fewer animals in an entire year than a typical large plant does in a single day. Custom slaughterhouses have shown that scale-sensitive regulations work well – the USDA has no records of any foodborne illness traced to any custom slaughterhouse in the last eight years.
The PRIME Act simply allows farmers who want to sell their meat within their own state to use these custom slaughterhouses, just as they are already used by hunters and homesteaders in their state.
This would provide immediate relief for many farmers who are facing the prospect of going out of business because they must wait one to two years to get their animals processed at an inspected plant due to the COVI crisis. And in the long-term, it creates greater opportunities for new small-scale custom slaughterhouses to open, building the infrastructure we need for a more resilient, robust food system – without spending more tax dollars.
The PRIME Act supports local food production and small businesses, while also reducing vehicle miles traveled with livestock trailers, and helping to meet the consumer demand for locally raised meat.
Please support consumers and small farmers by signing on to H.R. 3835/ S. 2001.
TAKE ACTION #2: Meet them in person!
During August, the members of Congress leave DC to spend a month back in their home districts. They attend town halls and local events, which are a great time to ask them in person – and in front of others in your community – to support the PRIME Act! When you call their offices, you can also ask them what events they will be hosting or attending in your area. And then make plans to go!
- Be friendly, polite, and positive. If they respond in a way that you don’t like (such as saying they’re opposed because of food safety, or talking about how the big industry players “feed the world”), don’t get hostile or angry — use it as an opening to educate them.
- Getting contact information for a staffer, and giving them your contact information, helps the education process. Bring business cards, a farm flyer, or some other piece you can leave with the staff so they can reach you later – and ask for their business card.
- Think about what matters to the elected official. Are they talking about supporting small businesses? National security? Environmental concerns? Health? Helping small farmers have local, scale-appropriate options for processing their animals and selling meat to their local community helps ALL of these. Explain to them why the PRIME Act is right up their alley.
- Bring friends. Having 2 or 3 people reinforcing the importance of this issue is great.
Federal regulations take a one-size-fits-all approach that has favored the largest meatpackers – despite the fact that they have caused numerous foodborne illness outbreaks. Small-scale processors struggle to deal with the regulations, particularly as they are applied by USDA inspectors who are biased against small-scale operations after decades of federal policies that told producers to “get big or get out.”
As a result, small-scale livestock farmers have few places they can take their animals for processing. In some areas of the country, the nearest USDA or equivalent state facility may be several hours’ drive away or more.
There are alternatives, known as “custom slaughterhouses,” which legally operate in many states. But the meat from them can only be provided back to – and consumed by the family of – the person who owned the animal when it entered the slaughterhouse. A farmer who wants to sell his or her beef, lamb, goat, or pork to consumers at a local farmers’ market or other local outlet cannot use a custom slaughterhouse.
The PRIME Act repeals the federal ban on the sale of meat from custom slaughterhouses, allowing flexibility for states to permit producers to sell meat processed at a custom slaughterhouse within the state.
Custom slaughterhouses are, and will remain, subject to federal regulations, as well as state regulations. They are, and will continue to be, inspected by government agencies, although they do not have to have an inspector on-site during the actual processing (making them similar to the way most food is processed in this country).
The PRIME Act is an important step to provide scale-appropriate regulations that we need for small-scale processors to diversify our food system, empowering independent farmers to feed their local communities.🖨️ Print post