September 19, 2000
Honorable Richard Lugar, Chairman
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee
328-A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Chairman:
On behalf of the commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in the fifty states and four territories, I am writing to reiterate our strong support for S. 1988, the New Markets For State-Inspected Meat Act, introduced by Senators Tom Daschle and Orrin Hatch. We firmly believe the Committee should move this legislation forward. Time on the legislative calendar is growing extremely short. It is critical that Congress act swiftly in order to get a bill enacted this year. The reasons to pass this legislation are clear, simple, and compelling:
1) It will level the economic playing field for small businesses and help small meat processors grow and expand into new markets. Current law places small meat processors at a competitive disadvantage. Foreign-produced meat and poultry products can be freely shipped and sold anywhere in the U.S. C giving them greater market access than U.S. state-inspected processors. This is unfair.
2) It will spur more competition and innovation in the industry by giving farmers and ranchers more opportunities to sell their livestock at a better price. This will create jobs and stimulate the rural economy. Without change, growing concentration in the processing sector will continue to leave smaller farmers and ranchers with fewer buyers for their livestock and poultry, further depressing their financial situation which is already stressed by low commodity prices.
3) It will create a seamless national meat and poultry inspection system by coordinating federal and state inspection standards and programs. The new Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system is now fully implemented down to the Avery small plant@ level. Increasing the viability of state meat and poultry inspection will improve food safety and enhance consumer confidence in our food supply. The current ban on interstate shipment does not apply to Anon-amenable@ meats such as venison, buffalo, pheasant, and rabbit. It does not make sense to allow these products across state borders while beef, pork, and lamb cannot be shipped interstate.
We thank both Senators Daschle and Hatch, and you Mr. Chairman, for your efforts and work with all stakeholders to improve the bill to the benefit of producers and consumers. We will continue working to address any outstanding issues, such a microbiological testing, in order to reach a consensus.
Again, we urge you to take prompt action on S. 1988. This bill would significantly improve competition, enhance food safety, and allow farmers to continue to produce abundant and safe products.
Fred L. Dailey
Director, Ohio Department of Agriculture
President, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
cc: Senate Agriculture Committee members