RAMP-UP Act to help meat processors upgrade plants

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
RAMP-UP Act would help smaller state processors like Brandon Meats and Sausage of Brandon, Wis., move to federal inspection and sell products across state lines.

A newly  introduced bipartisan bill would provide grants to existing meat processors to become federally inspected, helping to provide new outlets for meat and ease the backlog of livestock due to the disruption of the food chain.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and former Chairman Frank Lucas of Oklahoma were joined by eight other lawmakers to introduce the Requiring Assistance to Meat Processors for Upgrading Plants (RAMP-UP) Act.

The legislation would establish a program to make facility upgrade and planning grants – up to $100,000 – to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to Federal Inspection and be able to sell their products across state lines.

Many smaller state inspected processors say the USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service is costly and cumbersome. If enacted, the legislation would ease the burden on processors and benefit producers by opening new markets for their products.

The legislation will also require USDA to work with States and report on ways to improve the existing Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.

“We have seen the importance of having meat and poultry processors of all sizes in Minnesota and across the country over the past few months,” said Peterson. “The RAMP-UP Act will provide grants to help these rural small businesses meet that demand, wherever their customers live.”

Lucas says America’s meat producers and processors are currently facing unprecedented market challenges.

"At a time when producers are experiencing increased demand for high-quality meat, meat processors across the United States are racing to increase their capacity to meet the demands of consumers and producers ... the RAMP-UP Act gives processors the tools to become federally inspected facilities, which widens their customer base while maintaining strong inspection standards."

In the past, smaller meat processors were forced to turn down potentially lucrative partnerships with venues due to the laws prohibiting meat sales across state lines for state inspected plants.

"This will assist smaller processing facilities in obtaining a larger commercial presence while helping meet consumer demand, which has been recently impacted by COVID-19," said Rep. Sanford Bishop.

Rep. Robert Aderholt says disruptions to meat processing this spring showed that the country's current system needs greater flexibility.

“I am an original co-sponsor of this legislation because increased competition and capacity in the meat processing sector is good for farmers and the American consumer. The RAMP-UP Act will help address the current backlog of livestock and build a stronger industry for the future.”

The RAMP-UP Act has the added support of a broad range of livestock, farm and agricultural associations.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented disruptions to beef processing which were devastating to cattle producers. The RAMP UP Act addresses these supply chain issues by ensuring cattle ranchers and farmers have robust access to new markets regardless of where their livestock is processed,” said Don Schiefelbein, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President. 

The National Farmers Union has been vocal over the country's growing reliance on fewer and larger facilities to process American's meat.

“This system, though efficient, is particularly vulnerable to disruptions - a fact that has become impossible to ignore as coronavirus outbreaks at just a handful of plants have backed up the entire supply chain," said National Farmers Union President Rob Larew. "Small and medium sized plants can ensure greater resilience and food security in times of crisis, as well as flexibility in marketing for farmers and ranchers. By helping meat processing plants cover the often prohibitive cost of federal inspections, the RAMP UP Act will bolster a strong and reliable meat supply chain for farmers and consumers alike.”