Bacon state inspection

A package of bacon is stamped with the South Dakota meat inspection label at Renner Corner Locker. 

Congress is looking to help small meat processors by loosening the rules on selling across state lines.

“As a result of COVID-19, meat processing plants across the country have been forced to close or slow operations and as a result we’ve seen a renaissance in small processors,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said in a news release. “Many states, including South Dakota, have inspection standards that are at least equal to what the federal government requires. This bill cuts through red tape and allows producers, processors and retailers to sell state inspected meat and poultry direct to consumers through online stores across state lines.”

Johnson, along with Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, introduced the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act June 30.

It aims to open up new markets for meat producers and processors, Cuellar said.

The DIRECT Act will:

• Amend the retail exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act to allow processors, butchers or other retailers to sell normal retail quantities (300 pounds of beef, 100 pounds of pork, 27.5 pound of lamb) of State Inspected Meat online to consumers across state lines.

• Allow new direct-to-consumer options for producers, processors and small meat markets.

• Maintains traceability of sales easily accessed in the event of a recall.

• Allows retail sales to consumers, minimizing the risk for further processing in export, keeping equivalency agreements with trading partners intact.

• Allow states operating under the Cooperative Interstate Shipping system to ship and label as they are currently.

The bill is supported by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Pork Producers Council and South Dakota Farm Bureau.

It's been a challenge for producers to sell directly to customers because there's a limited customer base in sparsely populated rural areas and there's a shortage of federally inspected processors, said. Eric Jennings, President of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. He sees online sales as an opportunity for expanding markets.

"South Dakota has had an excellent state meat inspection system that is equivalent to federal meat inspection for many years," he said. "This bill will allow our producers more freedoms for interstate commerce while still providing a safe beef product for consumers."

South Dakota Farm Bureau President Scott VanderWal said the bill would allow small

“Through the last few months these plants have gone to extraordinary levels to help keep pigs in the food chain," said Craig Andersen, President of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council. "They are in need of extra market access for the product they produce. This bill should also make it easier for producers to harvest and give product to local charities.”