KANSAS CITY – One thing meat and poultry processors can be sure of this coming year regarding regulations and policies in the industry is change, according to Andrew Harig, vice president, tax, trade, sustainability and policy development for FMI – the Food Industry Association (FMI), and Casey Gallimore, director regulatory and scientific affairs for the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). The two presenters at this year’s virtual Annual Meat Conference’s Regulatory and Policy Update agreed 2021 will look different than 2020.

Mr. Harig laid out some observations and expectations including a “gridlocked” congress on most issues and a new administration focusing heavily on reregulation in response to the previous administrations focus on deregulation. Mr. Harig said he expects the Biden administration to focus on four main areas: COVID relief, economic recovery from COVID, climate change and social justice across all agencies.

“There are other issues that are going to pop up along the way,” Mr. Harig said. “Immigration is obviously still out there. That is going to be a big issue, we’ve seen that covered. But, in terms of the industry, I think the four I named are really where the focus is going to be. And again, companies and industries are going to have to be prepared to engage and talk about these issues broadly.”

Mr. Harig mentioned an executive order on supply chain issued by the Biden administration on Feb. 24, 2021, calling for more resilient and diverse supply chains, suggesting it could have an impact on the industry. He pointed to language in the order that concerned him, specifically resilient, secure and diverse supply chains, “facilitating greater domestic production, a range of supply, built in redundancies, adequate stockpiles, safe and secure digital networks, and a world-class American manufacturing base and workforce.”

“I think there’s some stuff there to raise some red flags that we need to think about,” Mr. Harig said. “When you talk about introducing redundancies into a supply chain, it can create some security but it can also create inefficiencies and it can raise costs.”

Mr. Harig went on to point out how well the supply chain did adapt to the COVID crisis, the force pushing this order for more resiliency, considering the scope and severity caused by the foodservice segment essentially shutting down overnight.

Agricultural commodities and food products will be part of the second phase of the executive order and will be reviewed after one year with a report submitted on Feb. 24, 2022.

Mr. Gallimore started off by covering the current state of California’s Proposition 12 and Massachusetts’ Question 3, both of which cover turnaround standards for housing breeding pigs, veal calves and egg laying hens. The turnaround standards amount to animals being able to spread their appendages and turn around while in confinement. The sticking point for many stakeholders are the sales bans that come with the confinement requirements.

Both ballot initiatives require out of state products sold into California and Massachusetts to adhere to the guidelines of Proposition 12 and Question 3. However, both have passed their deadlines for writing regulations providing guidance for compliance.

“Massachusetts was supposed to have some regulations for us at the beginning of this year, we have not seen any draft regulations so far,” Mr. Gallimore said. “California has shown some draft proposed regulations, they don’t have proposed regulations, just draft proposed regulations. We have seen and submitted comments on those. They’re very lengthy and create a labyrinth of a certification program to comply. We assume Massachusetts will do something similar, but we really don’t have much of an indication.”

Because California represents a significantly larger market, it will face the most challenges in court. NAMI has been in a court battle against Prop 12 and most recently filed a petition for a writ of certiorari (a writ by which an appellate court decides to review a case at its discretion) with the Supreme Court on Feb. 26 of this year. The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation have also filed suit.

Mr. Gallimore then moved on to what she said was probably the biggest food safety issue in the industry – Salmonella. With poultry already down the road regarding Salmonella, beef and pork will both see changes in performance standards. The proposed performance standards for beef are available and pork’s new standards are expected soon. For the new beef standards, the proposal included manufactured trimmings and ground products.

For both beef and pork, the industry will see what is referred to as a rolling 52-week window for assessment. Before there were a designated set of samples and once through those the assessment was complete. The new assessment will be a continuous cycle, similar to what poultry currently has in place. Unlike poultry because of the lower occurrence in beef, two or less out of 48 samples throughout the rolling year will meet the standard, and three or more will not meet the standard.

Once in place, results will be publicly posted to encourage processors to work to meet the standards.