The legislature convened the First Special Session of 2020 late last month and one of the bills that became law that FoFF tracked was HB4206, which authorizes ODA to adopt rules establishing a state inspection of meat program. You can read FoFF’s testimony here. FoFF farmers and ranchers have been impacted by the lack of meat processing capacity in Oregon, which has only been exacerbated by Covid-19.
A state inspection program is a good first step, but Oregon will need to ensure that there is funding available to help small processors make necessary facility and other upgrades to come into USDA FSIS inspection compliance. Pre-pandemic, Chief Sponsor Rep. David Brock Smith said in his testimony on behalf of the version of the bill before the legislature in the regular 2020 Session, that there were potential plans to create legislation in 2021 that would offer low-interest loans for these upgrades, and that the state also wanted to take advantage of a federal matching program that would help cover facility upgrades.
Now that Oregon is facing a budget shortfall, it is unclear if these plans will move forward, but FoFF will be tracking this issue. A handful of states have already created grant programs, some using CARES Act funding. NMPAN (Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network) has compiled a list of state funding programs for facility improvements and upgrades that offers a roadmap for Oregon to potentially follow. Also of note is the federal RAMP UP Act (Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants) that was introduced on July 2. The legislation would establish a program to make facility upgrades and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to Federal Inspection and be able to sell their products across state lines. Also at the federal level, FoFF is tracking the PRIME Act, which would give states freedom to permit intrastate distribution of custom-slaughtered meats, with some limitations, to consumers, restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores.