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NE State Senator Brewer: Better Meat Inspection

Senator Tom Brewer
Lincoln, Nebraska

This past session I introduced an interim study (LR 380) in the Agriculture Committee. This is the first step in creating a big piece of legislation for the coming session. I plan to introduce a bill that restores state meat inspection in Nebraska.

The Interim Study Hearing for LR 380 will be Friday, November 6, at 1:30 p.m. It will be in the Nebraska Building at the Fonner Park Campus in Grand Island. It is open to the public with invited testimony only.

The 1967 and 1968 Congress passed the Meat and Poultry Inspection Acts. It prohibits the retail sale of meat (beef, poultry, pork, lamb and goat) from being sold into interstate commerce unless it is inspected to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) standards. Nebraska had its own state meat inspection program at the time.

Many states chose to simply let the USDA-FSIS handle meat inspection and save the expense of running a whole agency of state government to perform this important food safety function. Nebraska’s legislature chose this option and repealed our state meat inspection program in 1970.

Since then, it has become increasingly difficult for small town meat lockers to get a USDA meat inspector. The USDA has its hands full with the big packing houses that slaughter thousands of animals a day. The small plant operator that processes twenty head on a busy day isn’t their priority. Over the years, twenty-seven states have either turned their state meat inspection programs back on, or they never stopped them in the first place. A state-inspected small town meat locker in Iowa, for example, can sell meat retail to customers in Nebraska right now. Similar businesses without USDA inspection in Nebraska cannot. I aim to correct that.

Processors who will be state inspected under the new law I will propose must meet the same health and safety standards used by USDA-FSIS. Nebraska’s meat inspection program will exceed these standards. I believe there is a way to run this program using a fee-based system that doesn’t require a new appropriation of tax revenue in the budget to pay for it. Federal legislation pending in Congress supported by Rep. Fortenberry could also provide substantial cost-sharing.

Nebraska is “The Beef State.” It should be easy for Nebraskans to market and sell the most valuable agricultural commodity we produce. It should be just as easy for anyone to buy the best beef in the world from Nebraska. Increasing our capacity for processing beef was one of the obvious lessons from the coronavirus. At a time when cattle prices are at near record lows, state-inspected small town lockers can offer a lucrative new market for our cattle producers. This will bring jobs back to our small rural towns and help slow the steady decline in population.

I look forward to the hearing and getting all the stakeholders together to draft this bill.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.


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