May 23, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have introduced legislation that would make it easier for small farms and ranches to provide locally-produced meats to consumers. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has also joined as an original cosponsor. The Processing Revival and Instrastate Meat Exemption Act, (PRIME Act) would give individual states the option to permit intrastate distribution of custom-slaughtered meat such as beef, pork, goat or lamb to consumers, restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, and grocery stores. Senators King and Paul introduced this legislation both in the 114th and 115th Congresses.
“All across Maine, local farmers are creating superior agricultural products – but when they try to sell these products within their communities, they face burdensome regulations that make things far too complicated,” said Senator King. “A Maine farmer shouldn’t have to send his or her animals halfway across the state for processing just so they can sell the product to a neighbor. Let’s cut through this red tape, so our local farmers don’t have to jump through any extra hoops.”
“The PRIME Act will make it easier for farmers to sell and consumers to buy locally produced meat,” said Senator Paul.
“This legislation will make it easier for Tennessee farmers to sell and consumers to buy locally produced meat," said Senator Alexander. "Unfortunately, many states, including Tennessee, do not have enough USDA-approved processing facilities to meet demand, forcing farmers and ranchers to transport their animals long distances which raises costs.”
Across the nation, farmers and ranchers are seeing a growing demand for meat that has been raised and processed locally. Under current law, farmers and ranchers must have their animals processed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified facility to sell their product commercially. However, many states – including Maine – have a limited amount of USDA-approved processing facilities, which are often at capacity due to farmers and ranchers of all sizes and types racing to get their animals processed and off to market. That makes it expensive and time-consuming for farmers to transport their animals, sometimes 100 miles or more back and forth across the state or even out of state, when they intend to sell the meat to their neighbors.
According to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, there are five USDA-inspected and eight state-inspected meat processors in Maine. The PRIME Act would provide states with the option to part from the federal standard, and utilize local meat inspection sites to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to sell their product in-state. Doing so would help relieve the significant shortage of processing capacity and allow small farms, ranches, and slaughterhouses to thrive. This will give individual states the option to make it easier for farmers to supply their product to farmers markets, restaurants or grocery store in their own state – and give consumers access to farm-fresh product.
Senator King has been a strong advocate for Maine farmers by helping to assist them to widen their markets. In May, Senator King joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2019, legislation to remove a major hurdle for American farmers and ranchers aiming to sell American agricultural products in the Cuban market. The bipartisan bill would support jobs throughout the country by lifting restrictions on private financing for U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba.
In June 2018, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill with a number of King-backed provisions to support innovation and create new opportunities for the Maine’s agricultural communities, including a modernization of rural broadband programs, permanent funding to educate and train beginning farmers and ranchers, and continuing support for important Maine products like dairy, blueberries and potatoes. Senator King has also introduced the CREAATE Act, which would expand export opportunities for agricultural producers by revitalizing the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program; both of these programs aim to increase American agricultural exports, and generate a net return of $28.30 for every dollar invested.