In this file:
· U.S. considers faster hog slaughtering based on plant staffing -union
· USDA finally working on line speed situation
U.S. considers faster hog slaughtering based on plant staffing -union
Tom Polansek, Reuters
via Yahoo Finance - October 11, 2021
CHICAGO, Oct 11 (Reuters) - The Biden administration is considering a proposal that could allow some pork plants to slaughter pigs more quickly if they boost staffing, a union official said, after a U.S. court struck down a Trump-era rule that removed line speed limits.
The proposal put forward by Quality Pork Processors, operator of a large Minnesota slaughterhouse, and union officials could benefit companies like WH Group Ltd's Smithfield Foods and JBS USA, the North American unit of Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA.
Faster slaughtering would help them increase pork production at a time of high demand and soaring bacon prices.
Seven pork plants were initially able to operate without limits on line speeds after a 2019 U.S. Department of Agriculture rule change that did not need congressional approval. Six of the plants had previously received waivers to run at a faster pace.
A federal judge in March invalidated the policy and forced the plants to slow down following a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union lawsuit...
USDA finally working on line speed situation
Unavoidable situation costing producers millions of dollars.
Sources: Steve Meyer, Partners for Production Agriculture
via National Hog Farmer - Oct 11, 2021
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was called to task last week by Congress about the reductions in chain speeds at pork packing plants. His answer was that the department is working on possible waivers for the five plants that had to slow their operations when a Minnesota judge threw out the chain speed portion of the final rules for the New Swine Inspection System. My thought was, “Well it’s about time!” This situation has become critical for pork producers, and Mr. Vilsack and company, from what I can tell, have dawdled at doing nothing until now. They should have been acting long ago.
First, I’ll defend the secretary on two points. His USDA did not screw this up. That was the doing of the USDA under the Trump Administration when they did not follow the proper procedures in finalizing the rules to make a successful 20-year HAACP Inspection Models Project (HIMP) operational. The federal government has rules for how its agencies go about making rules. Those “rules for rules” are called the Administrative Procedures Act and all agencies are supposed to follow them to make the process open and transparent and allow all parties to be heard in the process. USDA didn’t do that, and the judge in Minnesota called foul on them and imposed the penalty that the plants can’t run at the enhanced speeds they have proven are possible and beneficial. They have to slow down to 1,106 head per hour. USDA committed the foul, and packers and producers got the penalty. Hardly sounds fair, does it? But again, that was not the fault of Mr. Vilsack’s agency.
Second, Mr. Vilsack found himself in the same shoes as your favorite football coach who watches the replay and sees that the referee got the call against his team correct. Not much reason to throw the red flag and just cost your team more in that circumstance, is there? From what I know, the Minnesota judge got it correct: USDA did violate the APA. So, an appeal by USDA was most likely a useless waste of time and resources. Remember, this court decision is not about worker health and safety. It is about whether USDA followed the proper procedures.
Which brings us to now, which should have been a few months ago. The only solutions that I think are available for this situation are 1) re-promulgate the rules regarding chain speeds and correctly address all comments about worker health and safety and 2) find a “work-around” with waivers or some reversion to the HIMP pilot project allowances for the higher line speeds.
Option 1 involves writing rules that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) labor union...