Senate bill would increase local meat processing capacity

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) recently introduced legislation to change regulations, increase meat processing capacity and allow auctions livestock to operate with small regional packing plants.

“I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to remove outdated regulations that impede producers’ ability to increase livestock processing capacity,” Luján said. “It’s a priority that I will continue to champion in the next Farm Bill.”

The law Project instructs the Secretary of Agriculture to amend the Packers and Stockyards Act to allow owners of livestock markets to open and operate small meat-packing plants.

Under the proposed amendment, these owners could operate a meatpacking facility processing less than 2,000 animals per day or 700,000 animals per year. The cap would also exclude the top 10 meat packers.

“Allowing livestock auction owners to invest in local and regional meat packers will accelerate safe meat processing, increase competition within the industry and ultimately reduce meat costs. for consumers,” said Ernst.

The Senate bill received support from the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and a few cattle auctions in New Mexico and Iowa.

“Daily slaughter capacity in Iowa is less than our feeder cattle production. We recognize the value of cattle auction markets in our supply chain, representing the interests of sellers and buyers,” said Bob Noble, president of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. “Update the Packers and Stockyards Act allowing their participation in the small-scale and regional processing sector can facilitate a more competitive market outside the big four. »

Chad Tentinger, lead developer of Cattlemen’s Heritage Beef Co., an Iowa cattle rancher, also lent his support to the bill.

In 2021, his company announced plans for a $325 million plant that is expected to process 1,500 head a day and employ 750 workers when complete.

“The base construction of the stockyard model is a tired old throwback to a time when big corporations tried to control hard-working family farms,” ​​Tentinger said. “Selling Barns are more efficient local family businesses that work in tandem with family farms for mutual benefit and to expand Iowa’s agricultural base.”

A companion bill from April, the A-PLUS Act, was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA).

Norman D. Briggs