In this file:
· A decision on pork line speeds will be made this week
… The judge will decide whether to extend the stay, on Wednesday…
· Letter from The Editor: Pork producers strike back
· Court ruling will concentrate market power in pork sector, producer says
A decision on pork line speeds will be made this week
June 7th 2021
A federal judge will decide this week if pork production line speeds will slow down or stay the same.
In April, the judge ruled USDA broke the law by failing to consider how faster line speeds could harm workers. The order was delayed until July and processors have requested a stay, pending an appeal.
They say that several plants have been running at the faster speeds for decades. The judge will decide whether to extend the stay, on Wednesday.
documents, plus video [0:26 min.]
Letter from The Editor: Pork producers strike back
By Dan Flynn, Opinion, Food Safety News by Marler Clark
June 7, 2021
In 2020, the food and employee safety issue known as line speed became a cause celeb, cited by the union and other activist groups in all sorts of ways. It seemed to come up in all sorts of venues including congressional legislation.
A federal judge in St. Paul struck down the line-speed provision of the New Swine Inspection System on March 31. It came with a stay (a delay) of 90 days. Lot’s has happened or not happened while that clock has been running down to June 30. The judge framed the issue this way:
“Before hogs reach the evisceration line, they pass through the kill floor where workers gambrel the hogs by cutting and hanging the carcasses. This requires workers to maneuver and lift hog carcasses that weigh approximately 400 pounds. When the evisceration line moves faster, the kill floor workers must keep pace with the line. These workers state that hog carcasses will sometimes fall from the hooks, injuring workers and that this risk increases as they work at higher speeds.”
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has not ordered an appeal and isn’t likely to do so. Instead, he wants hog farmers nationwide to comply with the Minnesota court’s order. This is a flip-flop by USDA, including Vilsack.
As pork producers see it, USDA’s “unwillingness to defend” or to show “any indication of an intent to defend” the invalidated line-speed provision is a break with past policy. Taking line-speed limits away is part of USDA’s modernization program for inspections and it’s been 25 years in the making.
U.S. pork producers hoped Secretary Vilsack would appeal...
Court ruling will concentrate market power in pork sector, producer says
By Phil Borgic, Opinion, High Plains Journal (KS)
Jun 7, 2021
Borgic is an Illinois hog farmer
The past few years have been incredibly difficult for hog farmers like me. After more than two years of trade retaliation that limited our ability to compete effectively around the globe, the COVID pandemic unleashed unprecedented challenges for the entire food supply chain. Now, just as we are returning to normalcy, another looming disaster threatens my livelihood and the prosperity of many hog farmers like me if not quickly addressed. It will also erode industry competition by placing more market power in the hands of pork packing plant operators.
Recently, a federal court decision struck down a provision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s New Swine Inspection System, which allows for pork processing facilities to operate at a faster rate. NSIS, initiated during the Bill Clinton administration and evaluated at five pilot plants over 20 years, was approved for industry-wide adoption in 2019. Unless reversed by June 29, the federal court ruling will result in a 2.5% loss in pork packing plant capacity nationwide, and $82.3 million in reduced income for hog farmers, according to Dermot Hayes, an economist with Iowa State University.
Although the court claimed USDA failed to consider worker safety concerns, there is no evidence that eliminating line speed limits poses a risk to worker safety. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite; during the 20-year NSIS pilot program, the elimination of line speed limits did not lead to injuries. According to FSIS, a comparison of worker safety data from 2002 to 2010 shows that the five plants in the NSIS pilot program had lower mean injury rates compared to 24 traditionally inspected, high-volume plants for which the agency had data.
While the court decision will affect all U.S. hog farmers, smaller producers will disproportionately bear the brunt, especially those located near affected processing facilities. I am a third-generation hog farmer from Raymond, Illinois. If the line speed is reduced at a near-by packing plant, where we ship most of our hogs, we will need to find a new home for 1,000 pigs a week and will lose $10 per head just on transportation costs alone...