Rep. Liz Cheney is trying to come up with the recipe she needs to survive a six-way Republican primary on Aug. 16. It’s no surprise that the Wyoming congresswoman is making the state’s beef and meat products part of her “electoral stew.”
Cheney has introduced a bill to allow state-inspected meat to be sold across state lines, bypassing federal inspection by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
The latest introduction of her “Expanding Markets for State-inspected Meat Processors” is similar to Cheney’s bills from previous sessions. Her goal is to permit meat products inspected by state programs to be sold across state lines.
Wyoming’s farm and ranch community dominates the state, and rancher-attorney, Harriet Hageman, might topple Cheney in the primary. Hageman has Donald Trump’s endorsement.
But incumbency has its advantages. Cheney’s bill to expand Wyoming’s meat markets is supported by Gov. Mark Gordon, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Wyoming Farm Bureau, and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
Wyoming ranchers argue that with just four companies controlling 80-to-85 percent of the meat packing business, the prices they are paid are kept artificially low.
“Rep. Cheney’s bill would finally acknowledge equity of Wyoming’s state inspection program and federal inspection requirements,” said Gov. Gordon. “Passage of this act would allow our hardworking state inspectors and the Department of Agriculture to serve our producers better and help Wyoming export high-quality products to additional markets.”
Cheney says her bill will address shortages experienced during the pandemic and open and expand new markets for livestock products.
Current law does not permit the sale of state-inspected meat out of state. FSIS does authorize state inspections in 27 states where the examination meets or exceeds federal inspection standards.
“These producers play an essential role in powering our state’s economy and providing high-quality food to consumers across the country,” Cheney said. “Allowing state-inspected meats to be sold across state lines empowers producers to access these new markets while supplying the increased demand.”
According to Cheney, her bill will result in more competition and increased choices for consumers.
Doug Miyamoto, Wyoming Department of Agriculture director, says that by allowing state-inspection meat sales across state lines, state ranchers would have more opportunities. He also said state inspection programs work very hard to meet or exceed federal inspection standards.
Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, says there are no federally inspected processing facilities in the state. He says Wyoming livestock producers are “at a clear disadvantage in being able to process their beef.”
Magagna also says, “the discrimination against state-inspected processed meat has no basis in food safety.”
In her political advertising, Hageman promises she will “Ride for the Brand,” and her legal career has been on land and agricultural issues.
“As an attorney, I battled Bill Clinton’s attempt to block access to one-third of our National Forest Lands, stopped the EPA’s efforts to take control of our irrigation infrastructure and operations, and blocked the USDA from forcing our livestock producers to use radio-frequency ear tags and register all of our ranches with the federal government, and more.”
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