Lawmakers urge USDA to delay line speed waiver action

Members of Congress are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to retract a rule that could reduce poultry plant line speeds by up to 25%

(Courtesy Wayne-Sanderson Farms)
(Courtesy Wayne-Sanderson Farms)

Members of Congress are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to retract a rule that could reduce poultry plant line speeds by up to 25%

On August 31, 2022, Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Georgia, and other representatives from poultry-growing states sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking to extend a September 1, 2022, deadline that could affect existing poultry line speed waivers.

According to a press release from Clyde’s office, on July 29, 2022, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sent 55 chicken plants currently participating in the federal line speed waiver program a letter requiring the plants’ participation in a study to keep their existing waivers.

If a plant opts out of this study, the USDA will cancel its waiver and it must return the line speed to 140 birds per minute within 60 days.

The letter detailed three FSIS deadlines: September 1, 2022; September 30, 2022 and November 1, 2022. The first deadline requires agreement to participate in a “third-party worker safety study” and to furnish worker safety data to receive a modified waiver and continue operating at current line speeds. Worker safety data is due later in the fall.

The letter’s signatories object to the “highly inadequate, rigid timelines” given by the department to meet the request as well as what they view as a small amount of information about the purpose of the study.

For their part, the delegates proposed 24 questions for the USDA asking for additional information about the intent of the study and the future public availability of the data. They requested that no action be taken concerning line speed waivers until the answers are received and set their own deadline of Sept. 30, 2022.

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