The PRIME Act is aiming to support small and local meat processors

Meat packing plant closures caused by the coronavirus are causing a wave of new legislation aimed at supporting small and local processors.

Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie and Maine Democrat Chellie Pingree both run small farms. After COVID-19 exposed the gaps in the food supply chain, they introduced the bipartisan PRIME Act to create more market opportunities for other small farms.

According to Massie, “The federal government says that I have to sell my neighbor half a cow, or a quarter of a cow, if I want to sell them meat. There’s literally no way to sell my neighbor a hamburger legally without leaving this county, which seems kind of ridiculous to me. So, the PRIME Act, Chellie and I introduced that to try to address that problem.”

The PRIME Act would allow intra-state sales for individual cuts of meat that were processed under state inspection. Sales could be direct to customers or to retail locations, like local grocers and restaurants.

“This isn’t so that somebody can sell all over the country, this is, if I were going to take advantage of the PRIME Act and sell to somebody, they have to be in Kentucky,” Massie states. “The farmer, the processor, and the consumer all have to be in one state.”

The PRIME Act focuses on local sales, compared to the RAMP-UP Act, which would provide grant money to help small processors become federally inspected and sold across state lines.

Congresswoman Pingree says that federal inspection is not the right choice for every facility.

“While I think it’s a good idea, and I’m mostly just glad to have the chair recognizing this is a serious issue for our committee to take up,” Pingree notes. “I don’t think it’s the only thing we should be doing, and I don’t think every facility should have to be a federal facility, and, honestly, I hadn’t thought about that until Rep. Massie said it, but you could be a giant facility and only have two inspectors in there and be a tiny facility and have to have one-- that’s just nuts.”

Congressman Massie says that it is important for farmers to talk to their lawmaker about the solutions that would help their operation be more successful, including legislation they support.

“I can talk to a colleague until I’m blue in the face, and they can even be convinced I’m right, and then they won’t co-sponsor a bill until they get a phone call or a question at a town hall, and one of their constituents says, ‘why aren’t you sponsoring this bill, don’t you support small farmers?’” Massie adds.

Senator Angus King introduced the companion bill to the PRIME Act in the Senate, both are currently still in committee.


Government grant seeks to help small-scale meat processors in Washington.