NCBA Delivers House Introduction of Bipartisan DIRECT Act
WASHINGTON (Jan. 28, 2021) – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) today hailed the introduction of bipartisan legislation to create new opportunities for cattle producers and processors to market beef products.
Introduced by U.S. Representatives Dusty Johnson (R - At-Large, S.D.) and Henry Cuellar (D - 28th Dist., TX), the Direct Interstate Retail Exemption for Certain Transactions (DIRECT) Act of 2021 would allow retail quantities of meat processed under state-inspection to be sold across state lines through e-commerce, providing beef producers and local processors alike with more options to market direct-to-consumers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted an urgent need for our industry to expand opportunities for state-inspected meatpackers. NCBA acted quickly last year, advocating to allow more beef to be safely sold online across state lines. The DIRECT Act will allow cattle producers and smaller beef processors to more easily evolve to meet the growing demand for e-commerce sales,” said NCBA Policy Division Chair and South Dakota rancher Todd Wilkinson. “Thank you to Representatives Johnson and Cuellar for recognizing the shifts in an ever-changing market and introducing this critical legislation."
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 transactions authorized under the DIRECT Act sales are direct to consumer via e-commerce, sales are traceable and can 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.