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June 11, 2021

With Global Meat Supply Chain Facing Challenges, Senators King and Paul Lead Bipartisan Push to Support Local Farmers and Ranchers

PRIME Act streamlines regulations to allow local farmers and ranchers to sell meats within states

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are introducing legislation to make it easier for small farms and ranches to provide locally-produced meats to consumers. The Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (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. The legislation comes days after a ransomware attack forced the world’s largest meat processor to shut down nine U.S. plants and disrupted production at other facilities – reinforcing the importance of local producers in a resilient food supply chain. In addition to Senators King and Paul, cosponsors include Senators Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Marsha Blackburn (R-T.N.), Mike Braun (R-I.N.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Mike Lee (R-U.T.).

“Cyberattacks and the coronavirus pandemic have exposed vulnerabilities in the global food supply chain, which is why it is more vital than ever that we cut red tape keeping local farmers and ranchers from feeding their communities,” said Senator King. “Maine’s local farmers and ranchers create top-notch agricultural products, but burdensome regulations create unnecessary challenges that hinder local economic activity. Under current rules, a Maine farmer could be forced to send his or her animals halfway across the state for processing just so they can sell the product to a neighbor down the road. These extra hoops don’t work for our farmers, and they don’t work for consumers – let’s simplify this process for everyone.”

“With inflation causing the cost of food to continuously rise, it is now more important than ever for families to have direct access to the resources of small farms and ranches for local foods,” Dr. Paul said. “The PRIME Act will make it easier for farmers to sell and consumers to buy locally-produced meat.”

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 would shift more safety oversight to states, some of which already have equally rigorous inspection practices, and break down barriers for small farms looking 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 repeatedly led legislative pushes to help Maine farmers widen their markets, introducing the PRIME Act with Senator Paul in each of the last three Congresses. Senator King is also the lead sponsor of the New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, alongside Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) The bipartisan bill would allow meat and poultry products inspected by state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines.

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