MonDak Senators sign on to bill allowing interstate meat sales

Three MonDak senators have have signed onto a bipartisan bill introduced by Republican South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds that seeks to allow the interstate trade of meat processed in state-inspected facilities.

The New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act would allow meat and poultry products that were inspected by federally approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection programs to be sold across state lines. That would give Montana ranchers more options to sell their products, avoiding backlogs, and bringing more diversity to livestock meat markets.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines and Sen. Jon Tester, as well as North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer are listed as cosponsors on the bill.

“Montana farmers and ranchers work hard to produce high quality products for our state’s consumers. It’s absurd that meat products that have already been inspected and approved at federal standards can’t be sold across state lines,” Daines said in an email. “This bipartisan legislation will reduce these burdensome barriers and make it easier for Montana’s ranchers to sell into new markets in surrounding states and find new customers.”

Tester said the legislation is just plain common sense.

“Montana’s farmers and ranchers produce the best beef and poultry in the world, so it only makes sense that they should be able to sell their products to folks across state lines who want to buy it,” Tester said in an email. “This bill gives consumers more choices at the grocery store, and will open up access to new markets and revenue for Montana’s hardworking farmers and ranchers.”

North Dakota senator Kevin Cramer is also a sponsor, and supported a similar measure in the last Congress.

“The COVID-19 pandemic taught us the United States needs to take steps to strengthen its food supply chain. The New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act would increase opportunities for beef and poultry producers without sacrificing safety standards,” Sen. Cramer told the Sidney Herald. “By making a simple change to allow already-inspected meat to be sold across state lines, we would create new markets for producers and increase the competitiveness of smaller processors, while giving consumers more choices at the grocery store with no added risk.”

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven,

“We are open to this legislation, which was introduced by Senator Rounds, and agree that there needs to be more competition in the market to give ranchers more options for slaughtering and selling their product,” he told the Sidney Herald. “That’s why we have cosponsored legislation with Senator Angus King to enable ranchers to more easily sell their meat to consumers in their state when using custom slaughterhouses. It’s also why we provided funding in the year-end legislation to enable small meat processors to make improvements needed to become federally inspected, which would allow them to sell and ship their products across state lines.”

While not a sponsor of the bill, said he supports the idea.

During the pandemic, the normal supply chain for the sale of federally inspected meat fell apart in some instances, threatening to cause food shortages across the nation. Concentrating all the meat processing in one facility also posed risks for large rates of infection in the communities where those facilities are located.

State-inspected meat and poultry facilities are already required by the Food Safety Inspection Service to be at least equal to federally inspected processing facilities, and, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 27 states have federally approved Meat and Poultry Inspection programs.

These products are already being safely sold to the public for consumption, but are presently restricted to within the state of inspection.

The bill could have tremendous impact on northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota if passed.

Eastern Montana Meat has recently begun operation in the region on the Montana side of the border, starting with 100 head or so per day. They have the ability to double that capacity easily if market demand allows.

Both Montana Sen. Steve Hinebauch and Montana Rep. Brandon Ler, both Republicans, mentioned the interstate sale of meat as among goals they would work for during the state legislative session during a previous interview with the Sidney Herald.

“We want to create an interstate agreement with states around us, to make a coalition where our product would be good,” Ler told the Sidney Herald.

“We want to be able to sell meat to our neighbors, and we haven’t been able to do that,” Hinebauch added. “They all have to be federally inspected.”

Both acknowledged it would probably also take changes at the federal level to make this goal a reality.