Federal Lawmakers Lean on Vilsack, DOJ to Act on Line Speeds at Pork Packing Plants

Pork plants in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nebraska and Minnesota, have been working with the faster line speeds as part of a pilot program for a number of years. Another plant in Oklahoma increased line speeds in 2019, as well.

The court struck down a provision of USDA’s New Swine Inspection System, or NSIS, allowing for faster harvest-facility line speeds. NSIS was initiated during the Clinton administration and was evaluated at five pilot plants during the past 20 years.

“At a time when the United States is seeking to increase much-needed pork harvest capacity, the court order will reduce plant capacity at six plants running at NSIS line speeds by as much as 25%,” NPPC said in a news release.

In their letter, the lawmakers said, “While the economic impact to these packers will be significant, it is the nation’s small- and medium-sized hog farmers who will suffer the greatest harm from upstream impacts. It is imperative that USDA act quickly to move for a stay of the judge’s order and an appeal to prevent this reduction in packing capacity, which is set to take place at the end of June.”

The lawmakers said unless the DOJ or USDA acts the pork industry could see a wave of consolidation.

“As the hog production cycle spans nearly a year, hogs set to enter this reduced-capacity market are already being raised. Farmers have little ability to alter their supply in the next year,” the letter said.

“Many farmers supplying these NSIS plants will need to find alternative destinations for their hogs. The resulting surplus and reduced demand in a concentrated geographic region will shift economic power to pork processing companies. The culmination of economic losses from the pandemic, multiple years of trade retaliation, and the court’s decision may result in some producers selling their operation. By failing to act, USDA will drive consolidation in the pork industry.”

Read copies of the letter here: https://nppc.org/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

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