To Avoid Food Supply Chain Crisis, Bill Introduced to Help Small Farms Serve Local Consumers
Today, U.S. Representatives Thomas Massie and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced legislation to make it easier for small farms and ranches to serve consumers. The PRIME (Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption) Act would give individual states freedom to permit intrastate distribution of custom-slaughtered meat such as beef, pork, or lamb, to consumers, restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, and grocery stores.
“As a producer of grass-fed beef, I am familiar with the difficulties small producers face when marketing directly to consumers,” said Rep. Massie, who owns 50 head of cattle. “Despite consumers’ desire to know where their food comes from, federal inspection requirements make it difficult for them to purchase food from local farmers they know and trust. These onerous federal rules also make it more difficult for small farms and ranches to succeed financially. It is time to open our markets to small farms and producers and give consumers the freedom to choose.”
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“More and more people want locally produced food, but because of the way the system is set up for processing meat, farmers and ranchers sometimes end up sending their animals hundreds or even thousands of miles to a giant slaughterhouse,” said Rep. Pingree, who raises grass-fed beef at her island farm in Maine and is the lead Democratic sponsor for the legislation. “That is just crazy and defeats the whole point of locally produced food. If we can change the federal regulations a little to make it easier to process meat locally, it’s going to help farmers scale up and give local consumers what they want.”
“The PRIME Act is the first step to rebuilding local processing infrastructure, which can revive rural economies and enable communities to become more self-sufficient in meat production,” stated Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. “We applaud Representative Massie and Representative Pingree for taking on one of the bigger obstacles to a prosperous local food system.”
“Regulating sales of locally produced and sold meat at the state level has the potential to address a significant barrier to the growth of the local food system,” said Judith McGeary, Founder and Executive Director of Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance. “As an organization that represents both farmers and consumers, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance applauds this common-sense bill.”
Current law exempts custom slaughter of animals from federal inspection regulations, but only if the meat is slaughtered for personal, household, guest, and employee use (21 U.S.C. § 623(a)). This means that in order to sell individual cuts of locally-raised meats to consumers, farmers and ranchers must first send their animals to one of a limited number of USDA-inspected slaughterhouses. These slaughterhouses are sometimes hundreds of miles away, which adds substantial transportation cost, and also increases the chance that meat raised locally will be co-mingled with industrially-produced meat. The PRIME Act would expand the current custom exemption and allow small farms, ranches, and slaughterhouses to thrive.
The PRIME Act (H.R. 3187), which is supported by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance, is part of a series of “Food & Farm Freedom” initiatives championed by Massie, including The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 (H.R. 525), the Milk Freedom Act of 2015 (H.R. 3563), and the Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2015 (H.R. 3564). Rep. Pingree was the lead Democratic co-sponsor on both “Milk Freedom” bills. Rep. Massie has also been a staunch advocate for country-of-origin labeling of food.