WASHINGTON – The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and several congressional lawmakers have written letters to the Biden administration to request that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) appeal a recent federal court ruling regarding US pork processing plants’ line speeds.
The court’s decision will take effect on June 29 and struck down a provision that the USDA’s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) allowed for faster harvest facility line speeds.
“We thank the lawmakers, led by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Representatives Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD), for their support in recognizing the damaging ramifications this court ruling will have on hog farmers,” said Jen Sorenson, president of the NPPC and communications director for Iowa Select Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa. “We urge other lawmakers to join the growing calls for USDA and the DOJ to quickly intervene, preventing this carnage to hog farmers.”
In late May, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) said plants that operate under the NSIS should prepare for a maximum line speed of 1,106 head per hour by the end of June.
NPPC has stated that the ruling to strike down a provision in the NSIS reverses a 2019 decision to approve and implement faster line speeds. The group also added that the pilot program dates back to the Clinton administration and has continued throughout subsequent administrations in an effort to update the inspection system that had not been updated in more than 50 years.
“While the economic impact to these packers will be significant, it is the nation’s small- and medium-sized hog farmers who will suffer the greatest harm from upstream impacts. It is imperative that USDA act quickly to move for a stay of the judge’s order and an appeal to prevent this reduction in packing capacity, which is set to take place at the end of June,” the lawmakers noted in their letters.
An analysis by Dermot Hayes, Ph.D., an economist at Iowa State University, showed that changes to the NSIS regulations will result in a 2.5% loss in pork packing plant capacity nationwide and more than $80 million in reduced income for small US hog farmers.