House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and former Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, joined Reps. Sanford Bishop of Georgia, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Chellie Pingree of Maine, G.T. Thompson of Pennsylvania, Jim Costa of California, David Rouzer of North Carolina, Angie Craig of Minnesota and Robert Aderholt of Alabama, today to introduce the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants Act.
This legislation would establish a program to make facility upgrade and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to federal inspection and be able to sell their products across state lines. The legislation will also require USDA to work with states and report on ways to improve the existing Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.
"We have seen the importance of having meat and poultry processors of all sizes in Minnesota and across the country over the past few months," says Peterson. "The RAMP-UP Act will provide grants to help these rural small businesses meet that demand, wherever their customers live."
"Right now, America's meat producers and processors are facing unprecedented market challenges. At a time when producers are experiencing increased demand for high-quality meat, meat processors across the United States are racing to increase their capacity to meet the demands of consumers and producers," says Lucas. "The RAMP-UP Act gives processors the tools to become federally inspected facilities, which widens their customer base while maintaining strong inspection standards. I'm proud to join my friend and Agriculture Committee Chairman, Congressman Collin Peterson in expanding the opportunities for not only Oklahoma's processing facilities but meat processors across the United States."
"I am pleased to help lead the RAMP-UP Act, an exciting bill that helps smaller meat processors upgrade their plants and ship product interstate," Fortenberry says. "This is a localized solution that helps diversify the meatpacking industry to create a public good."
"During the coronavirus pandemic, we've seen how disruptions in just a few meat and poultry facilities can create ripple effects throughout the entire supply chain. We must shift towards a more diversified and resilient processing model," Pingree says. "The RAMP-UP Act would help defray the costs of attaining federal inspection for meat and poultry processing facilities, which will give local producers more options to get food to their customers. I'm proud to join as an original cosponsor of this legislation that will help get local foods on our constituents' plates."
"COVID-19 has shed light on the incredible importance of a strong food supply chain," says Thompson. "The RAMP-UP Act will ease the strain on our meat and poultry industry by cutting red tape for processors and get food on the tables of every American family more quickly."
"This legislation reduces the burdens associated with attaining Federal inspection without jeopardizing food safety standards," says Bishop. "This will assist smaller processing facilities in obtaining a larger commercial presence while helping meet consumer demand, which has been recently impacted by COVID-19."
"The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to strengthen our food supply chains to prevent disruptions in moving product to the marketplace," Rouzer says. "This bill would help small processors increase their capacity and thereby provide more options for livestock producers to get their product to market. This is a worthy bipartisan effort that will benefit agriculture and the consumer."
"The RAMP-UP Act represents important investment in the resiliency of our food system, by helping processors of all sizes to participate in federal inspection and meet the full range of consumer demand, wherever it may be," Costa says. "It will help to ensure grocery stores stay stocked with meat and poultry products, and as chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, I am happy to cosponsor this bill."
"Disruptions to meat processing this spring showed that our current system needs greater flexibility. I am an original cosponsor of this legislation because increased competition and capacity in the meat processing sector is good for farmers and the American consumer," says Aderholt. "The RAMP-UP Act will help address the current backlog of livestock and build a stronger industry for the future."
"Amidst disruptions in the food supply chain due to COVID-19, our farmers and local processors have continued to innovate to get safe food on the table for millions of Americans," Craig says. "By continuing to support our local meat processors, we are safeguarding our food supply and stimulating rural economies. I am proud to work with Chairman Peterson on this critical legislation."
The RAMP-UP Act has the added support of a broad range of livestock, farm and agricultural associations.
"The livestock and processing sectors faced severe impacts amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. The RAMP-UP Act addresses some of the most urgent needs, and I am grateful that it reflects the feedback I heard from state agricultural leaders across the country. Now is the time to act swiftly on the evolution of the processing industry," says Blayne Arthur, secretary of Agriculture of Oklahoma, and chair of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture's Animal Agriculture Committee.
"I thank Chairman Peterson and all the co-sponsors of the RAMP-UP Act for recognizing a critical and timely need to expand meat processing capacity across the country," says Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Thom Petersen. "Minnesota livestock producers have seen the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they are counting on new approaches like this to accelerate the recovery of this critical industry."
"The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruptions to beef processing which were devastating to cattle producers. The RAMP-UP Act addresses these supply chain issues by ensuring cattle ranchers and farmers have robust access to new markets regardless of where their livestock is processed," says Don Schiefelbein, National Cattlemen's Beef Association vice president. "We're grateful to Chairman Peterson and Rep. Lucas for their leadership and attention to this critical issue."
"Over the past several decades, we have come to rely on fewer and larger facilities to process all of our meat," says National Farmers Union President Rob Larew. "This system, though efficient, is particularly vulnerable to disruptions — a fact that has become impossible to ignore as coronavirus outbreaks at just a handful of plants have backed up the entire supply chain. Small- and medium-sized plants can ensure greater resilience and food security in times of crisis, as well as flexibility in marketing for farmers and ranchers. By helping meat processing plants cover the often prohibitive cost of federal inspections, the RAMP-UP Act will bolster a strong and reliable meat supply chain for farmers and consumers alike."
"As Congress looks at ways to make our food system more resilient for farmers and ranchers and for consumers, the American Farm Bureau Federation appreciates Chairman Peterson and Reps. Lucas and Fortenberry and others for introducing this bill to increase meat and poultry processing capacity," says American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. "At the same time as this bill will help more processing facilities attain federal inspection status and ensure producers have a market for their poultry and livestock, it also ensures the safety and abundance of the food supply."
"Previous COVID-related harvest facility disruptions created a lasting bottleneck on farms where millions of hogs remain backed-up," says National Pork Producers Council President Howard "A.V." Roth. "As a result, we face mounting financial losses and a severe emotional strain. We thank Congressmen Peterson, Fortenberry and Lucas for taking steps to expand harvest capacity and bring much-needed relief to American hog farmers."
"For America's sheep producers, finding new markets and meeting demand for lamb is critical to our ability to thrive in a quickly changing environment," says American Sheep Industry Association President Benny Cox. "Chairman Peterson and Rep. Lucas's legislation is tremendously welcome to help break down barriers for smaller processors to compete nationwide. These grants will ensure our local establishments can meet our stringent food safety inspection system requirements and open a world of opportunity for sheep producers."
"By providing assistance to help small meat and poultry establishments attain federal inspection status without sacrificing critical food safety standards, the RAMP-UP Act represents a suitable approach in expanding capacity during times of food supply disruptions. Consumer Reports commends Chairman Peterson for his work on this bill," says Brian Ronholm, director of Food Policy at Consumer Reports.