WASHINGTON — In a new Congress, Representatives Dusty Johnson (R-SD) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) recently re-introduced their previously proposed legislation to allow state-inspected meat to be sold across state lines and online by small processors. The congressmen said this law would give processors additional avenues to sell their products to consumers.

“Today, a few large players have too much control over our meat supply chains. In many states, state meat inspection is every bit as good as federal meat inspection,” Johnson said. “The DIRECT Act would unlock the entrepreneurship of state-inspected processors without compromising food safety.”

The Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act would amend the retail exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). The amendment would allow processors, butchers or other retailers to sell retail quantities (300 lbs of beef, 100 lbs of pork, 27.5 lbs of lamb) of state-inspected meat online to consumers across state lines.

“Our nation’s meat industry has been devastated by the economic fallout resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” Cuellar said. “The bipartisan legislation will allow meat inspected by the State to be sold online and across state lines, opening up new markets for meat producers and processors. As a senior member of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Appropriations, I will continue to provide the necessary support to the meat industry so they are able to make it through this crisis and continue to be an integral part of feeding American families.”

According to Johnson and Cuellar, the DIRECT Act would maintain traceability of sales in case of a recall. 

Like the previous proposal, several state and national industry groups supported the bill, including The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the US Cattlemen’s Association’s Independent Beef Processors Task Force.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted an urgent need for our industry to expand opportunities for state-inspected meatpackers,” said Todd Wilkinson, NCBA policy division chair. “NCBA acted quickly last year, advocating to allow more beef to be safely sold online across state lines. The DIRECT Act will allow cattle producers and smaller beef processors to more easily evolve to meet the growing demand for e-commerce sales.”