The future of processing speeds will be determined tomorrow

Tomorrow a federal judge will decide if she will issue a stay to keep pork line speeds at their regular pace. It comes as processors seek intervention in a decision they say will devastate the industry.

Iowa is the top pork-producing state in the nation, and Senator Chuck Grassley is leading the effort to halt a court ruling that would slow line speeds and reduce capacity by 2.5 percent, a decision that he says would have severe consequences for producers.

According to Sen. Grassley, “It’s going to be very costly to farmers, about $23 dollars a head, about $80 some million dollars cost to the economy... the pork industry isn’t in the strongest position it ought to be in, and this is just going to make it less so.”

He is joined by representative Jim Hagedorn and Dustry Johnson on letters to the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture, calling on the Solicitor General to slow down the process for reevaluation.

“If it’s a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, we’ve got an opportunity to run the regulation again and observe everything more precisely according to the APA, and get something that can get past the judge,” Sen. Grassley states.

Only the Department of Justice can appeal the ruling and Grassley says that is the right path forward.

“We run things like this through the Justice Department,” he explains. “You understand that part of the problem was why the U.D. Department of Agriculture didn’t go to the safety rules. They have no jurisdiction over safety rules, that’s the Department of Labor, and that would be OSHA within Labor Department is worried about safety. So, you can understand why that wasn’t something that the Agriculture Department consider.”

Supporters of slower line speeds point to worker safety as the top concern, but Grassley says that processors have done their due diligence to protect workers during and after COVID.

“There’s been an awful lot learned from COVID and just because of COIVD, there’s a lot of other safety precautions that are going on within the pork plants and all slaughterhouses,” he adds. “In fact, most workplaces have different safety rules now because of COVID, but once you’re beyond COVID, that’s not a factor anymore. I would suggest though, that whatever they put in place to protect people from COVID will still be kept in place.”

The faster line speeds were approved in 2019 under the New Swine Inspection System, which included a 20-year pilot program with five processing plants. The court ruling to reverse this approval is set to take effect June 29th.


A decision on pork line speeds will be made this week

Pork producers call on USDA to intervene on line speeds