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Senator Tom Brewer
Most people will agree that meat inspection is important to protect our food supply and the health and safety of consumers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about four thousand people die each year and over five million are sickened by tainted or contaminated meat. Back in 1997, the Federal Department of Agriculture forced Hudson Foods to recall 25 million pounds of hamburger after folks came down with E. Coli infections. This is one of those functions we cannot afford to get wrong.
With all that said however, is government-run meat inspection the only way to make sure our meat is safe to consume? Are there other ways to do it that are even more effective and less costly and less burdensome than the government bureaucracy we have now? Should consideration be given to the vast differences between a small town meat locker, and an industrial packing house? Can the Nebraska Legislature address this issue in the seventeen remaining days of the 106th legislature? We shall see.
Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Steve Halloran and I have been working on this for some time now. We have several ideas that would make selling the most valuable thing we create in “The Beef State” less of a hassle for those that sell it. And this means the process of turning cattle into beef has to be something that a small town meat locker can navigate without getting bled dry by lawyers and bureaucrats. Recent events have revealed government-created barriers to entry in this market that producers have known about for a long time. These barriers are causing serious problems for small, family-owned businesses in our rural communities. The difficulties being faced by our small town meat lockers are also closing off a potential market for cattle that our ranchers could really use right now.
This issue must be recognized as something that affects economic development in small town rural Nebraska. The USDA announced this week it would provide one billion dollars in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. The town of Mullen, for example, is in a federal HUB zone (Historically Underutilized Business) which makes even more grants and low or no-interest loans available there. There are a number of government programs designed to help, and I hope they do. But ultimately, more government bureaucracy and more government programs are not the solution to this problem.
In the time we have before the session re-starts, I am bringing other senators and stakeholders together. I am dead-set on finding the solution in this legislative session. I believe we can find a market-based answer that is superior to the federal government bureaucracy we are currently forced to use. Nebraskans are counting on us to get this done.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions, or concerns. Email me at email@example.com, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call us at (402) 471-2628.