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North American Meat Institute to House Ag Subcommittee: Meat and Poultry Industry Facing Headwinds, Remains Resilient with Record Production

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

CONTACT: Sarah Little (443) 440-0029

WASHINGTON, DC – At a hearing of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, Bryan Burns, Vice President and Associate General Counsel of the North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) said the meat and poultry industry was facing economic headwinds, challenges in the courts and hurdles with new regulations but remains resilient with record production.

“I want to emphasize that the industry is incredibly resilient, despite claims to the contrary,” said Burns. “Against challenges such as COVID, supply chain disruptions, labor availability, and the impact of drought, beef production set new records for four consecutive years from 2019 through 2022. Pork production has seen its highest four-year totals over the same period.”

Prior to working for the Meat Institute, Burns spent 20 years in the industry, first as counsel at one of the nation's largest meat and poultry processors and later as General Counsel and VP of Environment, Health and Safety at a smaller poultry company.

The hearing entitled, “A Review of Animal Agriculture Stakeholder Priorities,” was chaired by Subcommittee Chairman Tracey Mann (R-Kan.) and Subcommittee Ranking Member, Representative Jim Costa (D-Cal.).

For Burns’ testimony submitted for the record, click here .

At the hearing, Burns conveyed the priorities of meat and poultry packers and processors which included:

Proposition 12:
“It will embolden anti-animal ag groups to pursue burdensome laws elsewhere and will open the door to chaos in interstate commerce through state-by-state trade barriers, not just for meat and poultry products, but for any products not meeting the standards set by another state,” said Burns. “Industry needs certainty. But any federal solution requires careful drafting to ensure it is legally sufficient yet not vulnerable to challenges in the courts.”

Biden Administration’s Proposed Rules under the Packer and Stockyards Act:
“The Administration claims the proposals are needed because the injury to competition standard is an insurmountable bar for plaintiffs and eliminating it will help rein in the big companies,” said Burns. “However, the small, family owned poultry company I once worked for suffered a $14.5 million verdict in a Packers and Stockyards case decided under the injury to competition standard, an amount large enough to drive it to the verge of bankruptcy. The result was that the company was acquired by an owner outside the United States.”

Labor Shortages:
“We are pleased that House Agriculture Committee Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-Penn.) plans to establish an agricultural workforce working group within the House Agriculture Committee,” said Burns. “Currently, meat packing and processing facilities are not eligible to employ workers under the H-2A visa program for agricultural guest workers -- even though we are the essential harvest stage of the livestock industry. We urge the working group to consider the workforce needs of our industry as it deliberates. We are essential to the food supply. We would welcome the opportunity to be part of the discussions so that a solution can be found that works for all of agriculture.”

Reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting (LMR) Act:
“Since 2020, Congress has extended LMR’s five-year authorization annually in appropriations legislation. NAMI continues to support, a clean, five-year reauthorization of LMR uncoupled from the Farm Bill.”

The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows meat and poultry processing is a $266.99 billion industry employing 526,849 people directly and supporting many more jobs up and down stream in the value chain across both rural and urban communities.

About North American Meat Institute
The Meat Institute is the United States’ oldest and largest trade association representing packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal, turkey, and processed meat products. NAMI members include over 350 meat packing and processing companies, the majority of which have fewer than 100 employees, and account for over 95 percent of the United States’ output of meat and 70 percent of turkey production.


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