WASHINGTON – In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on June 23, Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), asked the agency to examine regulations which create impediments to a diversified meat processing industry.

Cramer and Wyden want the USDA to look at regulations following President Donald Trump’s executive order on May 19 for regulatory relief during the economic recovery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Four beef processing companies control 80% of the market and they use high-capacity processing facilities to perform their work,” the senators wrote in their letter. “This oligopolistic market structure has exhibited its weakness during COVID-19. When high-capacity processing facilities experienced outbreaks amongst employees, operations were forced to shut-off or slow down production, leaving the rancher with livestock they could not move and the consumer with either empty grocery shelves or overpriced products. These pitfalls can be avoided in the future if we take action today to promote a diversified food supply chain.”

Later in the Senators letter, Cramer and Wyden asked regulations to be streamlined to remove barriers that obstruct small- and medium-sized meat processors.    

The bi-partisan letter pointed to a similar letter written by Representatives Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) two weeks ago that laid out four areas of reform for industry and the USDA to consider.

First, the Congress members said Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans should give smaller meat processors more flexibility to comply with regulations, including during rapid production changes.

Next, they encouraged the USDA to find a more streamlined method of meat label submissions and approval. 

Also in the letter, was the expansion of the USDA’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) Program so state inspectors can approve meat to be sold outside of the state it is processed. Currently, seven states participate in the CIS program. 

Finally, the letter asked the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to find a way to allow for more flexibility and decrease expenses for smaller processors that need overtime inspection.