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Pork processing max line speed questioned

Lawmakers are pushing for USDA and the Department of Justice to appeal a recent federal district court ruling that would cause a 2.5 percent decrease in pork processing capacity nationwide.

Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa says the loss of processing capacity would have a large negative economic impact on pork producers.

“It will create a surplus of hogs on the market,” Grassley said. “Iowa State University is saying dropping the price by $23 an animal. The total economic loss of this decision to hog farmers is estimated to be $80 million for this year.”

The U.S. District Court of Minnesota vacated a portion of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s final rule in March, setting a limit of 1,106 head an hour. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the line speed rule, set under the Trump administration, allowed for an unlimited maximum line speed. Vilsack says the dispute puts USDA in a difficult position.

“It basically puts us in the middle of balancing worker safety, food safety, and farmer income,” he said. “And, frankly, I don’t think USDA should be put in that position.”

The court decision will take effect June 30th if not appealed. Representatives Jim Hagedorn from Minnesota and Dusty Johnson from South Dakota are co-signing letters with Grassley addressing the issue.

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