Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the USDA is working on a proposal for a waiver system for hog plants forced by a federal court to slow down their processing lines.
Waivers that would allow plants to speed up processing lines again could renew concerns about worker safety but boost profits for pork companies and farmers. Vilsack didn’t specify what those waivers would do or how they would get implemented.
A federal judge ruled earlier this year against the Trump administration rule that allowed pork plants to run slaughter lines without speed limits, as long as they prevented contamination and minimized bacteria.
Reuters says the United Food and Commercial Workers Union had challenged the 2019 rule because of worker safety issues. The Biden administration’s USDA didn’t appeal the ruling. However, the agency is now looking at ways to allow more adequate processing speeds but doing so without endangering worker health and safety.
Vilsack told a Congressional hearing that USDA is working with the pork industry and workers’ representatives on the issue. Seaboard Foods sped up its plant in Oklahoma last year, becoming the first company to operate under the 2019 rule.
Before the rule change, six other U.S. pork plants had bypassed previous speed limits with special USDA permission.
(From the National Association of Farm Broadcasters)