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Republicans urge USDA to loosen regulations on meat production

10 June 2020

Six Republican lawmakers on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee have asked the Department of Agriculture to ease regulations on meat processors, saying that the rules make it harder for smaller companies to compete.

According to Reuters, the representatives petitioned the USDA on 9 June. The committee cited recent events in the cattle industry where the price paid to ranchers for their livestock dropped while meat prices rose sharply. The spike in meat prices was linked to slowed operations at US slaughterhouses due to COVID-19 cases among workers. President Trump responded by urging the Justice Department to open an antitrust probe in May.

The six lawmakers, led by the top Republican on the committee, Jim Jordan, urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to "revisit burdensome regulations that create barriers to entry and lessen competition in the nation’s meat processing industry."

The lawmakers requested that Perdue consider giving smaller processors "more flexibility" in handling Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Plans to address food safety issues and to clarify and streamline the approval process for meat labels.

The lawmakers also urged the secretary to reduce regulatory burdens that keep smaller meat processors from participating in a programme that permits sales across state lines. They also asked Perdue to find a way to reduce the expense of inspections, which falls on meat processors if an inspector works overtime.

As the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily idled production at major slaughterhouses run by companies like Tyson Foods and JBS USA, farmers increasingly turned to small processors to slaughter their livestock. Nearly 80 percent of US beef is produced by four large companies.

In addition to representative Jordan, the letter was signed by Republican Representatives James Sensenbrenner, Ken Buck, Matt Gaetz, Kelly Armstrong and W Gregory Steube.

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