Rule Change Could Run Local Meat Lockers Out of Business

Rule Change Could Run Local Meat Lockers Out of Business

June 19 is deadline to comment on proposed federal rule change that would impact small Iowa meat processors.

The deadline is June 19 for the public to comment on proposed rule changes by USDA that could negatively impact Iowa meat lockers. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is encouraging people to send their comments to USDA before the deadline. He's worried that the recent proposed rule change by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) "could hurt the ability of Iowa's small meat processors to continue to serve our rural communities."

Small meat processors have expressed concerns that the Draft Guidance rule issued by USDA could require local meat lockers to do significantly more microbial testing, which would dramatically increase costs for these businesses and limit their competitiveness while having unclear benefits to food safety.

"I have heard a lot of concerns about the proposed rule changes by USDA from the owners of our state's small meat processing facilities as well as the livestock producers and rural residents who benefit from having these businesses located in their community," says Northey. "Recent comments from leaders at USDA indicate they are moving away from some of the most costly new proposed requirements, but it remains important that concerned citizens continue to make their views known."

Submit your comments online by e-mail or by regular mail

Comments can be submitted to USDA via email at: [email protected], or by mail at: Docket Clerk, USDA, FSIS, Room 2-2127, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705.

In March USDA released the updated Draft Guidance redefining validation for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems.  HACCP requires meat processors to identify potential food safety hazards in their processes and then take effective, scientifically proven actions to reduce, control, or eliminate the risk of the hazards and thereby better protect the food safety.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is responsible for implementing Iowa's cooperating agreements with USDA's FSIS agency to provide meat and poultry inspection that is "at least equal to" the federal requirements. The major difference is that state inspected products are not allowed to take part in interstate commerce.

Rule change would likely provide little gain in food safety

Northey sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing concerns about the proposal in April. A copy of that letter as well as a response from Vilsack to State Departments of Agriculture can be found on the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship's website at

"The issue in general is that we already have food safety requirements, but the proposed change would require additional testing that would be very costly to these local locker plants or smaller meat processors," says Northey. "The rule changes would be expensive enough to drive some of them out of business and certainly affect the profitability of these lockers and with very little gain in food safety. It appears USDA is rethinking the proposed rule changes and may be backing away, but we want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to get their comments in before the June 19 deadline."

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