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Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Proposes Legislation to Increase Small-Scale Poultry Processing in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (Jan. 25, 2024) – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig today announced proposed legislation aimed at increasing processing opportunities for small-scale poultry processors and producers. The legislation, House Study Bill 559, passed unanimously through a House subcommittee on Thursday and is now eligible for full consideration by the House Agriculture Committee.

If enacted, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Bureau could allow state poultry processing establishments to perform both official inspected and custom-exempt processing at the same facility. The change would treat poultry processing with the same standards already in place for establishments that perform red meat processing.

“As I travel the state and visit with Iowa poultry producers, particularly those who sell directly to consumers, I continually hear about the lack of poultry processing availability within our state. Many of our producers are traveling many miles to neighboring states to have their birds processed and that is completely wrong. I want this processing work to happen in Iowa, and consumers would ultimately benefit from giving processors and producers more options and flexibility,” said Secretary Naig. “Poultry processing has its own unique set of challenges, including workforce availability, but government should not stand in the way of allowing these businesses to expand their processing capabilities, especially when there are no food safety concerns with the proposed changes.”

The Department performs meat and poultry inspection through a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS). Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, red meat establishments are specifically allowed to perform both official and custom processing at the same facility through a provision that is commonly referred to as the Curtis Amendment. The Poultry Products Inspection Act, however, does not include such a provision, resulting in poultry processors having to choose between doing only official or only custom processing. There is no increased food safety risk associated with allowing the same facility to perform both activities.

“This bill will provide additional processing options for farmers and opportunities for consumers to buy more Iowa raised turkey and chicken,” said Brad Moline, a turkey farmer from Manson and President of the Iowa Turkey Federation. “This is the first step in the right direction for increasing alternatives for poultry processing in Iowa.  It has been a goal of mine and the ITF to expand turkey processing in the state and to ultimately help grow the turkey industry, increase turkey consumption and to promote turkey for the flavorful high-quality protein that it is. Thank you to Secretary Naig for listening to the needs of poultry farmers and his leadership to work with the Iowa Legislature to invest in rural Iowa and support a positive future for Iowa’s turkey industry.”

“Any regulatory changes that allow small meat processors to provide additional services to customers while still operating within food safety guidelines is always a positive,” said Ty Gustafson, Owner of Story City Locker and Board President of the Iowa Meat Processors Association. “Changes like this allow small meat processing businesses to diversify and compete with large meat processing businesses.”

In addition to proposing state legislation, Secretary Naig intends to formally petition USDA-FSIS to encourage them to reassess their interpretation of the law and grant states the flexibility to allow for additional poultry processing capacity.

A companion bill, Senate Study Bill 3031, has also been introduced for consideration in the Iowa Senate.

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