Legislation aimed at increasing meat processing and packing in Washington unanimously cleared the state Senate Tuesday. Senate Bill 5045, sponsored by Judy Warnick would make small and medium sized meat producers statewide eligible for support from a newly created Processing and Marketing Assistance Program. Warnick said the bill would also require the state Department of Agriculture to work with their federal counterparts to develop a cooperative agreement in operating a state meat inspection program.
The Moses Lake Republican added the legislation includes establishing a grant program administered by the Conservation Commission, to increase access to the meat and poultry processing and inspection opportunities. WSDA will also be encouraged to work with Washington State University to develop technical support programs for training in the industry and business practices.
“The way that COVID impacted our meat packing and processing industry highlighted a need to reform how they are regulated at a state level,” said Warnick. “We need to be more innovative and bring this oversight into the state’s control to avoid problems in the future. If we do it right, it will mean more opportunity for smaller producers and more local options for consumers.”
“This is somewhat new territory for local producers, but it is the right move,” Warnick said. “Delays in processing are bad for consumers and our ranchers. If we can take some of the pressure off the current system by encouraging state inspections and local support of smaller processors of meat and poultry, we are going to drastically improve the industry.”
The SB 5045 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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