May 22, 2020
Press Release

Today, U.S. Reps. Angie Craig (D-MN) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced the Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief COVID-19 Act to support small meatpacking plants working overtime during COVID-19. Amid large plant closures, small packing plants have extended hours to ensure our supply chain keeps moving – this comes with added costs. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) charges meatpacking plants overtime fees for food inspectors. The Small Packer Overtime Holiday Fee Relief COVID-19 Act would reduce this fee, encouraging smaller plants to remain open.

“Our small meat processors have stepped up during COVID-19 to keep our local food systems alive and food on our tables,” said Rep. Craig. “As a Member of the House Agriculture Committee, I’ve heard from family farmers who aren’t sure how they are going to make it past this global pandemic. Local meat processors have addressed the increased demand for processing amidst this pandemic. I’m proud to work with Rep. Johnson to lessen the federal burdens as they are rising to meet the current demands of our communities.”

“We need all hands on deck to work through this processing bottleneck,” said Rep. Johnson. “Small processors need flexibility and that’s what this bill would provide. The cattle industry is struggling, and during this pandemic, it’s crucial we keep overtime costs low for our small processors and producers who rely on this capacity.”  

"Small and very small plants put hours of work into processing a single animal.  USDA’s overtime rate of $79.88 per hour does not bite into profits of these small plants, it consumes the entire revenue opportunity.  Small plant owners have to weigh the value of working more to serve local farmers against paying it all the revenue to OT of staff and USDA," said Mike Lorentz, co-owner of Lorentz Meats, a small, family-owned slaughter, fabrication and further processing meat business and has been serving the local area for the past 50 years, with Organic Prairie as a key financial partner since 2012. Lorentz supports farmers and leaders in the niche meat industry with knowledge and experience in a transparent environment.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), cattle slaughter in May has decreased by approximately 31 percent compared to last year. This decrease is largely due to meatpacking plants being temporarily closed due to outbreaks of COVID-19 or plants slowing processing operations to take precautions to stop the spread of the virus.

The USDA FSIS charges meatpacking plants a fee for overtime and holiday hours paid to food inspectors. This legislation would provide funding to FSIS to reduce fees charged to small meatpacking plants when they request overtime and holiday inspection services. 

Meatpacking plants with fewer than 10 employees would be required to pay 25 percent of overtime and holiday fees and FSIS would pay the remaining 75 percent. Plants with 10-500 employees would be required to pay 70 percent of overtime fees with FSIS paying the remaining 30 percent.