The Montana Farm Bureau applauds Congressman Gianforte (R-MT) for his co-sponsoring of two important bills for livestock producers: The Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP Act) and the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act. MFBF has been actively pursuing legislation and other actions that will improve cattle markets for producers in Montana and the rest of the country.
“One huge problem in Montana is a lack of livestock processing capacity,” stated MFBF National Affairs Director Nicole Rolf. “Plants across the state are significantly backed up so when a rancher gets ready to bring in a beef for processing, it may be months, or even next year, before they can get an appointment. Hogs and lambs are affected as well. This was a problem before the pandemic and it has been exacerbated by all the issues that have arisen since the coronavirus hit. Consumers got worried when they noticed store shelves getting a little bare so they started looking to buy in bulk or to buy local, which is great, but now we need to be able to deliver. There are a variety of complicating factors here, but these two bills will help fix some of the challenges.”
The RAMP-UP Act, H.R. 7490, provides grants for small custom meat processors to become USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspected. This would allow more small meat processing plants to become federally inspected and the meat sold commercially.
“Montana has a mix of USDA-inspected, state inspected and custom exempt processing plants. The custom exempt plants or state-inspected plants are great for personal-use processing, such as when a rancher takes in a beef or a hunter has a deer cut for their own consumption,” noted Rolf. “However, state and federal law places some restrictions on the sale of meat killed at these plants. If the RAMP-UP Act bill were to pass, more of the state-inspected and custom plants may be able to take advantage of grant money to upgrade to FSIS inspections, allowing them to sell meat across state lines. This would give Montana ranchers more outlets for their cattle.”
The DIRECT Act, HR 7425, would allow state inspected meat to be sold across state lines via internet sales.
“We believe this legislation allows new flexibilities and marketing opportunities while protecting food safety, recall ability, and trade market access with regard to equivalency agreements,” said Rolf. “While we recognize the importance of FSIS inspection in interstate commerce and international trade, this bill is narrowly crafted and only allows the meat to be sold through e-commerce, alleviating traceability concerns.”
Rolf added, “We thank Congressman Gianforte for his support of these bills. They will help Montana’s smaller meat processing facilities provide meat for sale to consumers here in Montana and beyond, which will, in turn, benefit our state’s cattle ranchers.”