What’s the PRIME Act and why should you care?

posted on

July 25, 2023

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As a One Straw customer I know you’re concerned about access to local food and several things are happening right now that directly effect our ability to provide food to our community.

For one, you probably know that current Federal meat regulations are burdensome to the farmer and the consumer.

In the hopes of changing that, the PRIME Act is once again being put forward in the hopes of having it included in the Farm Bill.

Now, normally we’re not for further government intervention in the food system – no matter how shiny the goal, it always ends up hurting small farmers and favoring Big Ag.

Seriously. All we want to do is grow really amazing food that’s good for you, the animal, and the environment – and then be allowed to legally provide it to our community.

Seems simple, but Federal regulations make this extremely difficult.

The PRIME Act is meant to remove some of the current Federal regulation.

Briefly, the PRIME Act would reduce some of the burdensome regulation by allowing farmers like us to use custom exempt butcher shops for processing our meat in order to sell it by-the-package directly to consumers like you.

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Custom butcher shops are all the small, local butcher shops that used to dot the landscape – I think there were two in the county when my family moved here nearly 40 years ago.

And now there are none, because in order to use the custom exempt shops we have to sell you a quarter, half or whole beef while it is still alive.

And that just doesn’t work for the majority of people.

The vast majority of meat we sell is by-the-cut, retail grocery style. You can buy as much or as little whenever you want because we jump through all the Federal hoops and have it processed at a USDA butcher shop.

So you’re probably asking – what’s the problem? Why are we concerned?

Because we currently have ONLY ONE USDA inspected slaughter plant available to us - and guess what?

They’ve been shut down for four months.

Seriously. This has been a huge problem for us and other farmers.

You haven’t heard about it from us before this because we’ve been lucky in that we were well stocked on most items when the shutdown happened.

But if you’re a regular, you probably have noticed that some of our more popular cuts are starting to run out and that’s why.

We have animals ready for harvest, but we can’t get them processed because our USDA plant was shut down (through no fault of their own – it was a water issue caused by the dairy they were leasing from).

It’s a crying shame. The bar set by the Federal meat regulations is so high that there is only ONE plant available in our area so when a glitch happens it has a huge effect.

And we just have to wait it out. 

Cross your fingers and knock on wood, it looks like our plant is getting close to opening again.

But we should not be in this ridiculously fragile situation.

That’s why any steps to DE-REGULATE and de-centralize the meat processing system are wins in our book.

More butcher shops allow for more resiliency, a greater safety net, increased access, less driving time for the animals and the famers, and the list goes on.

We need more farmers to be able to process their meat and provide it to the community safely and consistently.

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If you’ve read along the last few weeks, you know we’re currently selling our quarter and half beef shares.

These shares will be processed at Sunrise Meats just next door in Port Angeles - one of the “custom” butcher shops that the PRIME Act is referring to – and the last such butcher shop remaining on the Olympic Peninsula.

We continue to offer this historical way of selling beef – which we make available once a year – in no small part because we want to support the small, local butcher shops that are still holding on.

We want them to still be there when we convince enough legislators that we need more access to small butcher shops governed by scale-appropriate rules.

'Cause guess what, since 2012 there have been NO reported cases of foodborne illness caused by a custom exempt butcher shop.

The big meat packers can’t match that claim!

We belong to the Farm To Consumer Defense Fund (FTCLDF), a group dedicated to the cause of food freedom and defending the rights of consumers and farmers.

The FTCLDF sent out an action alert this week that included specific information about the PRIME Act and how we as consumers and farmers can help.

I thought they did a good job of laying out the case, so I decided to include the body of their email below so you can read on for further information.

And you can help us take action by calling our U.S Representative as well as BOTH of our U.S. Senators and urging them to sign on to H.R. 2814/S.907.

**The following is quoted from an email the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund sent out to all FTCLDF members this week:

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Consumers want to purchase healthy, sustainably produced meat from their local farmer, but federal policy makes this extremely difficult. The proposed PRIME Act could change this dramatically and support locally produced pasture raised beef. We need your support in passing this important law.

WHAT IS THE PRIME ACT?

The PRIME Act simply allows farmers to use custom slaughterhouses and sell the processed meat within their own state, either direct to consumers or to restaurants and retailers. Currently such sales are prohibited by federal law, despite the fact that custom slaughter houses are in fact regulated by federal law.

The PRIME Act supports local food production and small businesses, while also reducing vehicle miles traveled with livestock trailers, and helping to meet the consumer demand for locally raised meat.

TAKE ACTION:

Call your U.S Representative as well as BOTH of your U.S. Senators and urge them to sign on to H.R. 2814/S.907

Getting new co-sponsors this month gives us a better chance to get this important bill included in the Farm Bill. By giving just 5 minutes of your time, you are taking significant steps to ensure small, family farmers are able to sell their meat to the consumers who want it!

Representative Derek Kilmer 202-225-5916

Senator Maria Cantwell 202-224-3441

Senator Patty Murray 202-224-2621

Calls are the most effective option, followed by a personalized email.

Below is a sample message to use for your call or email but please, to make the most impact, create a personalized message that shares your story about why this matters to you!

As a constituent, I urge Senator (or Representative) _____ to co-sponsor H.R. 2814/S.907, the PRIME Act and to work to get it included in the Farm Bill. I care about a resilient local food system and hope you do as well.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the vulnerability that has existed in the U.S consolidated meat industry for quite some time. We need more small-scale farmers and independent processors to increase access to meat raised locally by independent producers.

Custom slaughterhouses represent a smarter, scale-sensitive approach to regulation. They must meet federal and state standards, but without some of the aspects that are unduly expensive and burdensome for small-scale operations. A typical custom slaughterhouse processes fewer animals in an entire year than a typical large plant does in a single day. Custom slaughterhouses have shown that scale-sensitive regulations work well—the USDA has no records of any foodborne illness traced to any custom slaughterhouse since 2012.

This would provide immediate relief for many farmers who must wait up to two years to get their animals processed at an inspected plant. And in the long-term, it creates greater opportunities for new small-scale custom slaughterhouses to open, building the infrastructure we need for a more resilient, robust food system—without spending more tax dollars.

Please support your constituents, vital consumers and small farmers by signing on to H.R. 2814/S.907 now and supporting its inclusion in the Farm Bill.

Thank you for taking action! Just a few minutes of your time truly makes a difference as we work to change the food system to support small farmers. In addition, you can watch a recording of a hearing discussing the PRIME Act HERE

In good health,

Alexia Kulwiec

Executive Director

Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund

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We are so grateful to be your farmers as we all pull together, working towards greater food freedom and security.

Thank you for voting for small farms with your food dollars.

Shop now to vote for local food with your food dollar!

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