USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) announced a sweeping new proposal that would upset the market and business relationships of small and independent packer-processors nationwide, reports the National Meat Association.

Among the many proposed changes, packers would be banned from selling livestock to other packers, producers would not have to prove competitive harm to make anticompetitive allegations and private contracts would be made public on GIPSA’s website as soon as 10 days after the terms had been settled. These are restrictions and criteria that could stifle normal business operations, have been rejected by Federal courts and are contrary to a free and open market.

“Many of the proposed changes appear to be in response to unsubstantiated concerns while ignoring the results of industry and congressionally mandated studies. Under the guise of balance and transparency, it will cause upheaval and confusion while increasing the costs to the entire market chain. It’s going to have the opposite impact of what is intended,” said NMA CEO Barry Carpenter. “NMA has already called upon GIPSA to provide proof that the complaints the Agency referenced in the proposal as the basis for change have any validity.”

The American Meat Institute also issued a statement on the proposal, calling it a “regulatory end-run” around judicial rulings that would have a severe and detrimental impact on livestock producers and the meat industry.

If finalized, the rule could dismantle many business models for livestock marketing and procurement. For example, packers who own cattle feedlots would no longer be permitted to sell their livestock to other packers and would instead be forced to sell their cattle only to the packing division of the their company. The same would apply to pork companies that raise pigs. Not only would this harm meat companies with livestock production divisions, it would harm other packers who have come to rely on them as a source for animals, the AMI says.

According to AMI Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Mark Dopp, “USDA is attempting to turn the clock back on the livestock and meat marketing practices that have made the U.S. meat production system the envy of the world and that have delivered the most abundant and affordable meat products available to the American consumer.”

Source: NMA, AMI

Worker loses legs in meat grinder accident

An employee at Jobber’s Meat Packing Co. in Vernon, Calif., is in critical condition after both his legs were severed in an accident. The employee, who was not named, fell into a grinder, reports KTLA.

The accident occurred early Saturday morning. Police said that the man, in his early 30s, was attempting to clean the machine when it turned on. Investigators are trying to determine how the machine turned on.

Vernon police received a frantic 911 call about a worker trapped inside a large meat-grinding machine. The victim was transported in critical condition by ambulance to a local hospital. He was conscious and breathing when firefighters removed him from the machine, according to a co-worker.

Source: KTLA

USDA to honor slain FSIS employees

On June 21, 2000, FSIS Compliance Officers Jean Hillery and Thomas Quadros, along with California Department of Food and Agriculture Senior Special Investigator Bill Shaline, were killed while serving to protect the nation's food supply. The three were the first agricultural agents gunned down in the line of duty. Stuart Alexander, owner of a San Leandro, Calif., sausage factory, was later found guilty and convicted of first-degree murder.

"It's said that time heals wounds, but this is a pain that continues to ache in the hearts of our employees 10 years later," said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza, who also worked at USDA at the time. "We can't ever forget what happened, and we will never forget these heroes."

Almanza will be joined by USDA employees during a Ceremony of Remembrance on June 21, on the corner of 14th and Jefferson Streets, NW, in Washington, DC. The event will begin with the distribution of commemorative ribbons at 7:30 a.m. A remembrance ceremony will follow at 9 a.m., on the northwest corner of the Whitten Building at the Linden Basswood Tree, previously dedicated to those who lost their lives. A separate event will be held the following day in the Memorial Rose Garden at FSIS' Alameda District Office, 620 Central Ave., Building 2C, in Alameda, Calif. Expected attendance at the event will be the judge who presided over Alexander's criminal trial, family members of the slain employees, and other officials. FSIS Assistant Administrator William C. "Bill" Smith will address those gathering for observances in Alameda.

Since the shootings, FSIS has established a Workplace Violence Prevention Taskforce that produced and implemented actions designed to guard against similar attacks. Among changes made, FSIS has identified measures for improving both personal security and worksite security and established the position of Workplace Violence Liaison/Intervention Officer.

FSIS has a website dedicated to the memories of the slain employees at

Source: FSIS

Fire at former Emge plant leads to evacuations

A fire at the former Emge meat processing plant in Fort Branch, Ind., has been burning since early Saturday morning, leading to has prompted a voluntary evacuation of neighborhoods near the plant, because of the potential for toxic fumes from the smoldering building.

Terry Hedges, head of the Gibson County Emergency Management Agency, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Emergency Management Agency are now in charge of the fire scene, reports the Evansville Courier and Press. He said EPA officials took air samples from the area over the weekend to test the air quality. He said officials were concerned about potentially toxic materials inside the building. Results from the air quality tests are not expected until Tuesday, but Hedges said that officials could not wait until the results to begin evacuations.

Firefighters haven't gone inside the former Emge plant in the town of Fort Branch because of major cracks seen in the building's concrete and shifts in the walls. Emge closed the plant in 1999 and no longer owns the site in the town about 20 miles north of Evansville.

Source: Evansville Courier And Press, Associated Press