Small meatpacking facilities are stepping up to bridge the gap as major food supply chains were shut down amid the current situation. Specifically, forced closures were placed on Tyson and Smithfield Foods.  Now the smaller facilities are working overtime to make up for the losses and Congress has a plan to pitch in and help out.

According to the Keloland, Congress decided to help as these small meat lockers have extended their business hours, all of which come at an added cost. The situation forced farmers and ranchers to turn to local meatpacking facilities to have their livestock processed.

Eric Jennings, President of the South Dakota Cattleman’s Association, said, “Anything we can do to help the packing plant process more cattle is going to help the beef industry.” However, despite the supply, many of these processing plants aren’t able to keep up with the production. Jennings commented that “With the slowdown from COVID-19 and the packing plants shutting down, we’ve got close to a million cattle backlogged right now.”

Workers are adding hours to their already extended shifts. However, these businesses have to pay overtime rates to federal inspectors. This is where the Congress steps in. Congressman Dusty Johnson commented, “Right now, we sort of add insult to injury for these local lockers. They are working weekends, working Saturdays and Sundays.

Not necessarily because they want to work, but they know people need to have their protein and producers have somewhere to take their livestock.” This situation has prompted the congressman to introduce a bill that will provide relief to meat processing plants.

When he introduced it, Johnson explained, “Very small lockers with less than ten employees, the federal government would pick up about 2/3 of those overtime costs. They’d still be responsible for about a third. We want this to be a cost-share.”

The South Dakota Cattleman’ Association fully supports this bill. However, this bill has not been introduced to the Congress yet and is not yet scheduled either.

South Dakota Animal Industry Board explained that this bill would impact federally inspected meat lockers and smaller processing plants.

Meat packing industry bills can be tracked here.

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