Large meatpacking plants across the country shut down after outbreaks of COVID-19 among employees, causing supply chain disruptions for farmers, ranchers, and consumers. But a new bill in the U.S. House seeks to address the problem by boosting small scale meat processors.
The Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants Act (RAMP-UP) would give $100,000 grants to small meat processors to upgrade their facilities to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is sponsoring the bill, including Republicans Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Collin Peterson (D-MN).
Scott Blubaugh, the president of the American Farmers & Ranchers/Oklahoma Farmers Union, says in order for meat to be sold across state lines, it must be slaughtered in a federally-inspected facility. Blubaugh says there are only a few plants in Oklahoma that are USDA inspected right now.
“So it really limits what we can do as producers here as far as building markets outside of the state of Oklahoma,” Blubaugh said.
Blubaugh says upgrading small plants could prevent disruption in the food system due to Black Swan events like COVID-19.
A similar bill called the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transaction Act (DIRECT) introduced by Rep. Henry Cueller (D-TX) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) would allow meat processed at state-inspected facilities to be sold directly to consumers across state lines through e-commerce.