The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) applauds the introduction of the bipartisan legislation to create new direct-to-consumer options for beef producers, processors and small meat markets without compromising federal food safety standards or market access under existing trade agreements.
Introduced by U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R - At-Large, SD) and Henry Cuellar (D - 28th Dist., TX), the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act of 2020 would amend retail exemptions under current law to allow meat processed under state-inspected establishments to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, providing beef producers and local processors alike with more options to market direct-to-consumers.
“Over the past few months, more Americans looked to e-commerce to purchase essential goods like beef and an already booming online marketplace further evolved to facilitate purchases and meet consumer demands," said NCBA President Marty Smith, a family cow-calf operator from Wacahoota, Fla. "The American beef supply chain must evolve to keep up with the speed of commerce and the demands of modern-day consumers. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports the DIRECT Act because it helps make it easier for the American cattle producer to meet the growing demand of the American consumer to purchase safe and delicious U.S. beef.”
Currently, many states such as South Dakota and Texas have State Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) as “at least equal to” standards set under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). Under the existing framework however, state-inspected products can only be sold interstate if approved to do so under the Cooperative Interstate Shipping Program (CIS).
The DIRECT Act would amend the retail exemption under the FMIA and PPIA to allow processors, butchers or other retailers to sell normal retail quantities (300 lbs. of beef, 100 lbs. of pork, 27.5 lbs. of lamb) of MPI State Inspected Meat online to consumers across state lines. Because DIRECT Act sales are in e-commerce, sales are traceable and could easily be recalled. The proposal also includes clear prohibitions on export, keeping our equivalency agreements with trading partners intact. The DIRECT Act will allow states operating under the CIS system to ship and label as they are currently.