Helping South Dakota’s meat lockers

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One of the issues South Dakotans faced during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic was limited meat supplies on store shelves.  This seems like an odd situation in a state where livestock outnumber people. 

The 2021 legislature has seen several bills aimed at addressing capacity in the meatpacking industry, and the ability to expand markets for state-inspected meats.

HB 1040 would have provided $5 million from the state general fund for grants to small meat processors to upgrade their facilities and equipment.  This bill was tabled at the Governor’s request, with the understanding that the program will be funded with federal monies.

SB 191 started out as a request for $25 million to renovate and expand the SDSU Meat Lab, which is over 40 years old.  It was amended down to $600,000 to pay for a comprehensive planning study for future renovation and expansion of the facility.  The lab provides education, training, and outreach for students and stakeholders (including at-home and small butchers and processors), as well as providing research and development.

HB 1219 was a proposal for South Dakota to join an Interstate Cooperative Meatpacking Compact.  Any state choosing to join the compact would be able to sell meat to another participating state. Currently, only Montana is discussing joining the compact.

All red meat products sold in SD must bear either a state or a federal mark of inspection.  Products with a state mark of inspection can only be sold and distributed within South Dakota; meat products with the federal mark of inspection may be sold within the state or across state lines.

South Dakota’s meat inspection program provides service to 34 small slaughter and processing establishments throughout the state. This program is a 50/50 cost sharing inspection program with USDA.  As part of this cost sharing, we must maintain a program that is “at least equal to” the Federal Inspection Program.

USDA warned that if we joined a compact, as proposed in HB 1219, we would jeopardize both our “at least equal to” status and almost $1 million in federal funding that pays half of our annual state meat inspection program.  HB 1219 was killed, with support from several agricultural organizations.

Instead, South Dakota is working to implement the Cooperative Interstate Shipment program, a USDA program that allows state-inspected plants to operate as federally inspected facilities under specific conditions and ship their product in interstate commerce and internationally.  

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