MADISON — DATCP Interim Secretary Randy Romanski sent the following letter to Joseph Priore, Acting Regional Director of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to make a unique and temporary exception to allow state-inspected meat to be sold or donated across state lines.
Dear Mr. Priore:
In these unprecedented times, I ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make a unique and temporary exception to allow state-inspected meat to be sold or donated across state lines. A short-term exception will move additional livestock through slaughter facilities, decrease the number of animals euthanized, and increase the amount of meat available to consumers.
We have shown evidence that our state meat and poultry inspection program is “at least equal” to federal requirements. Furthermore, Wisconsin has been a leading state in the Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program, in which our program is deemed to be the “same as” the federal program. In the past decade, the flexibility in the CIS program has allowed Wisconsin livestock farmers and meat processors to reach new markets and benefited the state’s entire agriculture industry.
The COVID-19 public health emergency has created challenges across the food supply chain that we have never seen before. The closures of large processing facilities are causing market-ready livestock to back-up on our farms and severely limiting options for dairy farmers to ship their cull cattle. We are greatly concerned about the welfare of these animals and the ability of our farmers to locate an alternative market.
Our agricultural development staff have been working tirelessly to identify state-inspected main street meat processors who may be willing to slaughter and process even an extra dozen animals a week. Our state meat inspectors stand ready to provide additional slaughter inspection days as necessary. We feel that new partnerships between farmers, processors, and consumers or food donation programs are vitally important in responding to this pandemic. We recognize that some of these consumers and food donation programs are located across the state line, and we want to allow them to purchase or receive meat from Wisconsin if they are willing and able.
In Wisconsin, we want to do everything we can to keep our livestock, including cattle, hogs, and poultry, moving through the food supply chain, rather than being humanely euthanized. In a time when so many families are lacking access to nutritious, affordable food, we need to do all we can to put meat on consumers’ tables, whether it is purchased at the grocery store or received from a food pantry.
During this COVID-19 public health emergency, I believe we need to work together to identify challenges and new opportunities to overcome those challenges. If agreeable to USDA, Wisconsin state-inspected meat will be able to travel across our borders for further processing, utilization by food banks, or direct consumer purchases.
Please consider implementing regulatory discretion and temporarily waiving enforcement of the restriction on interstate shipment. This will allow state-inspected meat products to be shipped across the state lines, benefitting family farmers, local meat businesses, and ultimately consumers. Thank you for your prompt consideration of this request.
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