Thursday, April 1, 2010

Farmers: Why are you not angry?

I’ve become quite frustrated lately. I work hard for farmers every day, literally 18hrs (many times longer), 7 days per week, 364 (I take Christmas day off, mostly) per year. Even when I’m not physically in the meat shop, my brain is buzzing with ideas and opportunities to better my neighbor farmers bottom line and quality/value of life.  I work to teach them how to grab more dollar for their farm. This takes on many forms.  I might note that I also have a farm and cattle, horses, and a couple of goats to tend to…

• How to turn that cull calf, heifer, cow, bull, non breeder, etc... into a gain rather than a loss

• How the seedstock farmer can make gains from bull calves during the downed market

• How the dairy farmer can convert grass into cash with bull calves

• How the small farmer can hold onto their farm through direct marketing both meat & livestock

• How the pig farmer can turn culls into value added meats

• How the tobacco farmer can diversify into alternative livestocks like sheep, goat, and rabbit on minimal land.

• Meat education, what cuts are best from their particular animal, how best to age the carcass and when not to.

• Services for livestock processing for your personal families use, USDA services to allow them to re-sell their meats direct to the public or HRI, value added services for specialty meats to add greater value to their bottom line, custom processing with value added processing for the hunter.

• Private branding, graphics design, consultation, website development, marketing insight, cattle management, feeding tips….

• I work with my local county cattleman’s association to educate farmers on regulatory changes that will affect their farms and the services that I can provide for them. (I.e. Downer ban, CMPAF FDA enhanced feed ban, etc…)

• Not to mention that I literally support several farmers of various species of livestock through purchase of their animals at above market prices. I put my money where my mouth is!

That’s just a small sampling of what I do for the farmer on a daily basis. I work for you, the farmer.

So I have to ask myself, why are you not angry? Why have you forsaken us?

This is the most drastic change to HACCP since its inception. In one swoosh of the regulatory pen; USDA can take all of that away from you. These validation issues are literally putting every single bit of that at risk. The repercussions are dire. The mounting costs to operate a facility such as ours are already a burden. Most of which I realize that you do not understand. With added changes pending, this will be a financial burden that I and hundreds of plants like ours across the US will not be able to bare.

Who are we to pass these added costs along too? By costs, I mean literally $50,000 to $100’s of thousands of dollars depending on the services offered at that particular independent facility.

In my opinion (shared by hundreds of independent processors across the US), this is a systematic approach to eliminate the already dying breed of independents that work for you! And to make matters worse, this does not improve the food safety of our country’s meat supply. It only further consolidates it. Also important to note: All the major organizations and associations are opposed to this pending change.

Are we really that unappreciated? Is all my work for naught? Do you really worry more about HSUS than us and those like me across the US?

I ask you…why are you not angry? Why are you not standing up for us? Why are you not spreading the word? Have you even bothered to tell your local STATE or USDA inspected processor who likely does NOT even know this bombshell is coming? Will you not stand up for us? Why?

AAMP has requested an extension to the comment period, but have not gotten any written grant of extension. Therefore, it is strongly advising that comments be submitted by April 19, 2010. Individuals wishing to comment should submit comments to the email address or to the Docket Clerk, USDA, FSIS, Room 2-2127, 5601 Sunnyside Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705. After April 19th, FSIS will begin its review on the comments it receives and its process of deciding how it will proceed with respect to the validation of HACCP systems.
-Source: AAMP

For further information, please attend #meatcamp tonight on twitter. You may also find valuable information at these following links.

NAMP (pdf)
Penn State: Dr. Chris Raines @iTweetMeat – Do You Feel Validated?

Will YOU not act?

UPDATE: The comment period for this draft guidance material has been extended until June 19.  Don't let the time expire!  Share your comments and let your voice be heard.

There has also been a FaceBook Group created for information sharing, questions, etc...  Please join, No butcher,No Meat! here.


  1. J Michael SmuckerApril 1, 2010 at 11:30 AM

    Great post!
    Was going to work on saying something similar.

  2. I absolutely am angry at any means to shut down smaller processors as we're all in it together. It matters to us and matters to consumers, whether they see it or not. Absolutely interested in spreading the word but want to make sure it's accurate.

  3. Mike, I can honestly say I feel your pain. This is a difficult topic to make understandable to those not inside this industry.

    Somehow, we have to show them that this affects them. I don't know how to do that... :(

    For those who may not know, Mike Smucker is a fellow processor in PA. He works for you too.

    Smuckers Meats:

  4. It would seem that we have Hati in our agricultural sector but nobody comes or cares. Poor farmers poor soil poor soil poor people. And nobody want's to connect the dots. Local kill plants contribute to local food. Local food is often far safer than high millage food. Presently I have to ship my cattle 3.5 to 4 hours each way to have them slaughtered by a USDA facility. Not that many years ago it was 20 minutes. Is the future shipping everything to China for "safer" more "affordable" food.

  5. Jan,
    Thank you for your comments. How do we make this more accurate for you?

    I don't know how to explain the reprecussions of this pending change in terms that farmers and eaters will understand.

    Fact remains, if implemented as the guidance docs are written, the following changes will most likely occur at our facility:

    1. Eliminate species: We would no longer slaughter/process Sheep & Goat

    2. Eliminate value added services that such as sausages, bacons, any type of meat that requires "further processing" above and beyond just raw muscle cuts and ground meats with zero ingredients.


    Eliminate processing services for farmers under USDA inspection altogether

    3. Divert our own meats to retail/custom exempt. Now what this means is that our growth would be stifled. We would have to stay within the parameters of the exemption. This would greatly reduce the number of animals that I purchase from area farmers.

    4. It is possible that we would end USDA inspection altogether, depending on how our own inspector/District MGR interprets the new changes.

    What does this mean for our community?

    No more premiums to area farmers for livestock purchasing.

    No more selling of meats by local farmers

    No more value added products

    No more locally grown meats for our community.

    And perhaps, no more John's Custom Meats.

  6. Great outline of your value in the local food landscape. I hope ag is up to this challenge and can bridge the message to the consumers too.

    Not just the ones that buy local meat, I firmly believe most people still care about their neighbours and community principles and can write an email too IF they know about this issue.

    Tell 2, tell 5, send links.


  7. J Michael SmuckerApril 1, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    Thanks Amy,

    For the rest who want accuracy or perspective, I have often come across regs or policies that i was conerned were going to majorly affect our business and i would call AAMP in a tizzy and they would explain the issue and calm me down. I thought the same would be true when I called this time but it was not the case. AAMP knows their stuff and when they say they are concerned, it is reason to take action. I know that for many including myself, this is too crazy too actually be true. since I first ran the numbers I thought, I'll put them out there and before the day is over someone will have contradicted me. To date, no one has challenged my figures or explained it in any other way than I have interpreted it myself.
    FYI on the accuracy of this issue.

  8. Gareth, your concerns are warranted. Your production methods and market choice should be of value to all agriculture. Please pass the information from AAMP, etc.. onto your processor. It is that important.

    You are absolutely right. This issue is not just about local food, it's about communities and agriculture family, regardless of production methods used.

    We are apart of our community. We support all of our areas farmers regardless of what sector of ag they are involved in. They all use our services, from grass to grain, local to commodity, national and regional, and all points in between.

    In fact, one of our largest customers is PIC (Pig Improvement Company), an international player in the agriculture world.

    This warrants action from all sectors of agriculture, large or small, local or not.


  9. Mike, I'm with you. I kept waiting and hoping for someone, anyone to tell me this was not really hapenning. It is too incredible and outlandish to believe. But unfornately for all of us, this is a reality that we may all very well face.

    We must speak up.

  10. To inform myself on this issue, I read all 119 pages of Senate Bill #510 FDA: Food Safety Modification Act as it was voted on out of committee. This bill covers everything: meat processors, fruit and veggie farmers, farmers who sell at farmers markets, etc etc. If you are the link between the product and the consumer, please read this bill. You will be liable.

    As a farmer who produce beef, chicken and pork and sell directly to customers, this could have a HUGE impact on our business. No this isn't a bunch of small guys complaining about regulations. The new rules will literally put these guys out of business due to the cost of inspections (processors will pay 100% of costs deemed by the agency in charge).

    Also, what is really scary is the way page 20 line 25 reads, animal manure will be considered a hazard in vegetable and fruit production. That is scary.

    The sad part is, this is an election year and what Senator is going to want to have a no vote on Food Safety on their record. Maybe they should change the title of the bill. That might clear some heads in Congress.

    Emily Zweber

  11. Emily,
    Thank you for outlying your concerns over foodsafety legislation on the horizon. Personally, I have followed HR2749 and S510 fairly closely. I do see the need for much of this legislation; it is just a matter of scaling it appropriately.

    In order to do this, I have my legislators on speed dial, literally. It is important to know your representatives and senators on a first name basis. I am lucky enough to have one as a customer. I have been pleased with the changes that I have helped make happen to these bills.

    We must realize that food safety legislation will happen and should happen. In order to protect the best interests of small farmers, we also must get involved in that rule making.

    However, those pcs of legislation have nothing to do with the issues of validation facing State and USDA inspected processors across the US. This particular issue isn't really new persey. It is a "clarification" or in layman terns and enforcement of a regulation that was put in place 10 years ago.


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