WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said Thursday that he is re-introducing legislation that would allow state inspected meat to be sold across state lines over the internet.
The Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act would allow entrepreneurs and small businesses to expand their offerings and market directly to consumers, Johnson said. He is co-sponsoring it with U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).
Now in the 117th Congress, Johnson sponsored the bill last June but the bill did not receive a vote. He said Thursday that it got a lot of recognition and believes it is the type of legislation that should be able to get passed in a closely divided Congress.
“Particularly in states like South Dakota and Texas, the state inspection process is as strong as regular federal inspections,” Johnson said. “Today, a few large players have too much control over our meat supply chains.”
The legislation would amend the retail exemption under the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Poultry Products Inspection Act to allow processors and butchers to sell normal retail quantities (300 pounds of beef, 100 pounds of pork and 27.5 pounds of lamb) of state inspected meat. The bill would allow direct-to-consumer options for producers, processors and small meat markets, and maintain traceability of sales easily accessed in the event of a recall.
Johnson said that changing the rules would allow for “incredible entrepreneurship,” and could create a boom in meat similar to how craft beer businesses have taken off in recent years.
“And Americans love meat as much as they love beer,” Johnson said.
He said he doesn’t anticipate formal opposition and said he has discussed the matter with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the past about practical applications. He said it could be difficult to move the bill on its own, and could get attached to livestock mandatory price reporting legislation or an upcoming farm bill, which doesn’t expire until 2023.
The bill has been endorsed by a number of ag groups, including the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association and South Dakota Pork Producers, the South Dakota Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,
Johnson also expressed pride over receiving an assignment to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, given this is a year for the five-year highway bill to be reauthorized. He said he was one of 40 House Republicans seeking a first-time seat.
“Our part of the world has not been very well represented on the committee in the Plains West states,” Johnson said. “I do think we need to make sure we have a five-year bill that keeps real transportation states involved.”