Tell House Committee Members to Vote YES on HB 394
Support Local Meat in Tennessee
House Bill 394 (HB 394) which would establish a state meat inspection program in Tennessee, will be heard in the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday March 29th at 9am Central.
There is currently a shortage of inspected slaughterhouses in Tennessee leading to an inability to meet the demand for locally produced meat. Since it is easier to get state-inspected slaughterhouses online than it is federally inspected facilities, HB 394 will help remedy the lack of slaughterhouse infrastructure which is one of the biggest weaknesses in Tennessee’s food system.
ACTION TO TAKE
Please contact the House Ag Committee members asking them to vote YES on HB 394. The committee meets on Wednesday March 29th at 9am Central. Talking Points and More Background are included below.
Calls are more effective than emails; if your Representative is on the committee, mention that you are their constituent. Find your legislators here by entering your address online at:
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Rep Brock Martin (615) 741-7478 email@example.com
Rep Jay Reedy (615) 741-7098 firstname.lastname@example.org (Sponsor, no need to call or email)
Rep Bryan Richey (615) 741-3560 email@example.com
Rep Johnny Shaw (615) 741-4538 firstname.lastname@example.org
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1. There is a shortage of slaughterhouses in Tennessee, especially the eastern half of the state, making it difficult for small farmers and ranchers to get much needed access. Establishing a state meat inspection program will better enable them to fulfill the demand for locally produced meat.
2. The meat inspection laws will basically remain the same since HB 394 calls for the adoption of the federal regulations governing the production and sale of meat. The only significant change is that the Tennessee Department of Agriculture will have control over the state’s meat inspection program, not USDA.
3. Tennessee should have control over its state meat inspection program, not Washington D.C.; if there are any problems with a meat inspection program, it’s easier to resolve those problems in Nashville than in the District of Columbia.
4. Tennessee currently has a $7 billion surplus; the establishment of a state meat inspection program is a productive use of a very small part of that surplus (likely less than $1 million per year) to remedy the state’s lack of slaughterhouse infrastructure.
Bill language can be found here: https://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/113/Bill/HB0394.pdf
This bill establishes a state meat inspection program for Tennessee. Meat slaughtered and processed at state-inspected facilities can be sold in intrastate commerce. The bill is lengthy due to it dividing up the existing Tennessee Meat and Poultry Inspection Act into separate sections and is mostly a restatement of existing law. It does not establish a state inspection program for poultry; poultry will remain only under federal inspection.
The bill directs the Commissioner of Agriculture to hire at least eight inspectors for the state meat inspection program. It also authorizes the commissioner to use public funds for up to 50% of the cost of the state meat inspection program. Federal law allows USDA to fund half the cost of a state‘s program. This bill also directs the Commissioner to adopt rules incorporating the federal regulations governing slaughter and processing for meat animals. The Tennessee law on slaughter and processing will basically remain the same, the only change being that the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) will be administering the law governing slaughter and processing for intrastate commerce, instead of USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS).
There are definite advantages to this. If a plant is having an issue with a USDA inspector, it’s more difficult resolving a dispute through channels in Washington, DC with FSIS than going through channels in-state with TDA. Practical experience has generally been that state inspectors enforce the law in a way that is less burdensome to slaughterhouses and processing plants even though state law is required to be at least as strict as the federal law. The greater accountability and more reasonable enforcement involved with a state meat inspection program will eventually lead to there being more state-inspected than federally-inspected plants in Tennessee.
Another advantage to having a state meat inspection program is that Tennessee will be able to participate in the federal Cooperative Interstate Shipments (CIS) program. If FSIS approves Tennessee to participate in the CIS program then meat from Tennessee slaughterhouses and processing plants with fewer than 25 employees can be shipped in interstate commerce if those facilities themselves have been approved to participate in the program jointly by FSIS and TDA.
State meat inspection programs operate under a cooperative agreement with FSIS. In addition to providing up to 50% of a state’s operating funds, FSIS provides training, guidance and other support to state meat inspection programs.
Currently, 29 states have meat inspection programs.
There is a shortage of inspected slaughterhouses in Tennessee leading to an inability to meet the demand for locally produced meat. Due to the more reasonable regulatory scrutiny mentioned earlier, it is easier to get state-inspected slaughterhouses online than it is federally inspected facilities. Custom slaughterhouses and processing plants help meet the demand, but many consumers don’t have the money or the freezer space to purchase a portion of the animal and just want to buy meat by the cut.
WAPF will send out future alerts on HB 394 as events warrant.
HB 394 status –
House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee