Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Small Meat Processors Fight for Fairness

Small Meat Processors Fighting for Fairness

By Melissa Dunson of the Carthage (MO) Press Staff
(see link under title for online version)

The South American country of Argentina can sell beef to customers in the state of Kansas, but Cloud's Meat Processing and Smoking, located 20 miles from the Kansas/Missouri state border, cannot.

Andy Cloud, production manager at Cloud's, doesn't think that's right and he has a list of others across the U.S. who agree with him. A broad-based coalition of agricultural and farm organizations has been formed to address the issue. The coalition includes The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, American Association of Meat Processors, Center for Rural Affairs, American Meat Goat Association, Kansas Livestock Association, National Farmers Union, national Grange, American Sheep Industry Association, Missouri Association of Meat Processors, Montana Chamber of Commerce, National Association of State Meat and Food Inspection Directors, National Bison Association, North Dakota Meat Processors Association, North Dakota Stockmen's Association, Ohio Association of Meat Processors, R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, Texas Association of Business and Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors.

The issue that has unified these widely separated groups is the 1967 and 1968 Meat and Poultry Acts that prohibit state-inspected products from being sold in interstate commerce. The laws apply to beef, poultry, pork, lamb and goat, but strangely not to “non-amenable,” but still state-inspected products such as venison, pheasant, quail, rabbit and others. Andy said when the laws were originally passed, state-inspected processing plants were small and each community had their own plant to serve them. But now, in the ever shrinking world of local agriculture, plants have grown in size and increased the volume they can produce so they can serve a greater area. But the laws haven't changed with the years and he feels small businesses are being penalized by a law that discriminates against U.S. products.

Foreign-produced meat and poultry can be freely shipped and sold anywhere in the U.S. as long as the meat has met an equivalent standard of inspection to that of federally inspected meats, essentially the same requirements met by state-inspected meats. More than 30 countries are eligible to export meat to the U.S., including Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, the Slovak Republic and Hong Kong.

“We follow the same rules, but we don't have the same rights,” Andy said.

The solution the coalition is seeking comes in the form of S. 3519, the Agricultural Small Business Opportunity and Enhancement Act of 2006. The bill was introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) and will allow interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry. Niki Cloud, executive secretary for Missouri Association of Meat Processors, believes the new legislation which is currently awaiting floor space in congressional chambers, will provide a number of benefits to the national and local economy.

“This is good for farmers, processors, small businesses and consumers,” Niki said. “There are 130 processing plants in Missouri and while it will affect all states, it has a big ripple effect especially for Missouri because we are surrounded by eight states.”

Andy said not only would the new legislation support local farmers and provide a better product to more customers, but it would also help solidify Missouri's reputation as a high quality meat producer.

“It would be huge,” Andy said. “It would allow us to promote Missouri products. When you think of cheese, where do you think of? You think of Wisconsin because they've done a good job marketing their product. When people buy good quality meat, I want them to think Missouri.”

Cloud's currently processes 5,000 pounds of meat each day, enough to provide meals to 20,000 individuals, but Andy said the business and local economy still has ample room for growth.

To support S. 3519, the Agricultural Small Business Opportunity and Enhancement Act of 2006, contact John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org or post a question here.

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

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