Subject: Add Your Organization Name To Support Farmers, Processors, and Consumers

Dear Friend,

We reach out to you because we consider you an ally organization to ours, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, and we thought you may be interested in signing on to the below.


Please consider joining us in urging Congress to support the ability of State meat inspection programs to address the needs of farmers, processors, and consumers in building local and regional food systems, by reining in USDA's abuse of its discretion in approving these programs.


If you have any questions, please contact


The text of the letter is below. HERE is the form for signing on your organization. This letter is for organizations only.  If you wish to support this effort as an individual, please sign up for action alerts at Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.  


The undersigned organizations urge Congress to protect States’ ability to adopt scale-appropriate provisions for meat processed and sold solely within their states.  If a State administration certifies that its program is at least “equal to” the federal program, then USDA should have the burden to show otherwise.  This would protect States from arbitrary and capricious decisions by USDA officials that are not supported by the statutory or regulatory provisions. 

The Federal Meat Inspection Act gives USDA broad authority over state meat inspection programs, determining whether a state’s program merits “equal to” status.  Whether a state meat inspection program is approved or not impacts the entire livestock industry in the state, with many millions of dollars at stake. 

Under the current law, if there is a disagreement over whether the state meets the federal standards, States bear the burden of proof in their own defense.  The mere threat of USDA withdrawal of this designation – which currently can be based on informal policies or an individual official’s opinions -- places State officials in the untenable position of having to either abandon state policy or risk losing approval of the state inspection program. 

This has stifled the ability of states to build programs that work for their producers and consumers.  In particular, it has often prevented states from taking steps to support small-scale, local meat production and processing.

This isn’t a theoretical problem.  In Vermont, numerous farmers and consumers have found themselves in untenable situations because USDA officials changed their opinions on whether or not Vermont state’s approval of itinerant slaughterers makes their program not “equal to” the federal one—even though these are only being used for meat for Vermont consumers’ personal use, not commercial distribution. In Texas, attempts to pass an “animal share” bill, again only affecting informed individuals seeking to obtain meat for their personal consumption, was met with USDA threats that the state inspection program would have its approval revoked.  Other states have experienced similar challenges with USDA.

The proposed bill would protect a State from arbitrary and capricious decisions by USDA officials that are not supported by the statutory or regulatory provisions, ensuring that USDA uses its authority in a transparent, responsible manner.  Under the proposal, once a State administration has certified that its laws and standards align with the FMIA, the burden of proof would shift to the USDA.  The USDA would have to show how the State program is not at least “equal to” the federal program, based on the statutory and regulatory requirements, rather than individual opinions or informal policy guidance. 

We urge Congress to include the following provision in the Farm Bill to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C 661:

(c)State Meat Inspection Requirements. (1) …. And provided further that, if the Governor of the State or a representative selected by them certifies that the State has developed and is enforcing requirements at least equal to those imposed under subchapter I and IV of this chapter, the Secretary bears the burden of producing a preponderance of evidence to the contrary based on specific applicable statutory and regulatory provisions prior to revoking such designation.

This provision would not change any statutory or regulatory requirement, while still enabling small-farm advocates to better work with their local legislators, farmers, and slaughterers to create scale-appropriate solutions to build viable, accessible, local food systems that support our democracy, food security and resiliency. 




Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance 

Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund

National Family Farm Coalition

Rural Vermont

Community Farm Alliance

Family Farm Defenders

Farm Aid

Farmworker Association of Florida

North American Marine Alliance

Northeast Organic Farming Association - Interstate Council

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire


Urban Harvest


In good health,


Alexia Kulwiec

Executive Director

Powered by: