WASHINGTON – A new bipartisan bill was introduced by Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS.) and Peter Welch (D-VT) that would expand meat marketing for livestock and poultry producers around the country.

The Direct Interstate Retail Exemptions for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act introduced by the two lawmakers would create a narrow exemption to allow small producers and butchers more flexibility for interstate sales without compromising food safety or endangering international trade market access.

“During the pandemic, we saw first-hand the resiliency challenges of our food sector – millions of people stopped going to restaurants and started looking to cattle producers to source their beef directly from the farm,” Marshall said. “Unfortunately, the number of USDA-inspected facilities needed to meet consumer demand was lacking. The DIRECT Act creates a small and simple exemption to allow state-inspected butchers to sell meat and poultry online directly to a household consumer. If Kansans can buy meat directly from my butcher, my butcher should be able to sell their meat to consumers out-of-state as well.”

According to the senators, states like Vermont and Kansas, have state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs approved or at least equal to standards set under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).

The DIRECT Act amends the retail exemption under the FMIA and PPIA to allow processors, butchers or other retailers to sell retail quantities (300 lbs. of beef, 100 lbs. of pork, 27.5 lbs. of lamb) of MPI State Inspected Meat online or to consumers across state lines. 

“Our small farms face profound challenges every day,” Welch said. “The DIRECT Act will help small meat and poultry producers find new markets and keep their businesses thriving. I’m glad to partner with Senator Marshall on this bipartisan legislation.”

The bill would allow state-inspected meat processors to sell beef directly to consumers across state lines in these limited quantities and through e-commerce.

The latest proposal received support from some state organizations, American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“American consumers are buying beef in new ways, whether it is directly from local farms and ranches or online through e-commerce,” said Mark Eisele, president-elect of the NCBA. “The DIRECT Act allows smaller processors to sell beef in different and innovative ways, supporting cattle producers while also ensuring the safety of our product. NCBA is proud to support the DIRECT Act and we thank Senators Marshall and Welch for their efforts to strengthen the cattle and beef industry.” 

Similar bills with the same name have been introduced in the House of Representatives, including in 2021.