Thirty five House members, led by Rep. Andrew Clyde (GA-9), on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, the Department) Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that USDA delay the compliance dates for a worker safety study until the Department provides Congress with answers to a wide range of questions.

“We are writing today to express concern the [USDA] Office of Food Safety and the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) recent proposal to modify existing line speed waivers for chicken processing establishments currently operating under said waivers – especially considering the entire proposal is predicated on unfounded worker safety concerns,” the letter said. “We are requesting USDA extend any compliance dates associated with the proposed modification to the waiver process until no sooner than the Department has provided answers to the questions outlined below.”

“To further complicate the situation,” the letter continued, “FSIS has provided only limited time to compile, redact, and submit a vast amount of information with no assurances of its protection and distribution. If an establishment does not meet the Agency’s aggressive timeline, establishments will lose their waivers and only have 60 days to return to operating at 140 birds per minute (bpm). … If the Agency forces the industry to cut production, the ripple effects will be disastrous to consumers of American-raised chicken both domestically and abroad, the family farmers that work tirelessly to raise broiler chickens, the health and welfare of millions of broiler chickens, and the industry as a whole.”

The letter lists 24 questions, ranging from how worker safety parameters were determined by the Department for use in the study, to how information will be shared with and protected by the third-party contracted to conduct the study, to how the Department plans to address situations where good faith efforts are made to comply but require more than just 30 days to compile, redact, and submit information.

Along with Rep. Clyde, the letter was signed by Reps. Robert Aderholt (AL-4), Rick Allen (GA-12), Ted Budd (NC-13), Ben Cline (VA-6), Michael Cloud (TX-27), Jamie Comer (KY-1), Rick Crawford (AR-1), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Byron Donalds (FL-19), Tom Emmer (MN-6), Randy Feenstra (IA-4), Drew Ferguson (GA-3), Brad Finstad (MN-1), Chuck Fleischmann (TN-3), Virginia Foxx (NC-5), Bob Gibbs (OH-7), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), Lance Gooden (TX-5), Andy Harris (MD-1), Clay Higgins (LA-3), Bill Johnson (OH-6), Dusty Johnson (SD-AL), Barry Moore (AL-2), Markwayne Mullin (OK-2), Greg Murphy (NC-3), Ralph Norman (SC-5), David Rouzer (NC-7), Austin Scott (GA-8), Adrian Smith (NE-3), GT Thompson (PA-15), David Valadao (CA-21), Randy Weber (TX-14), Bruce Westerman (AR-4), Steve Womack (AR-3).

Reps. Comer, Foxx, Thompson, Westerman, and Davis are the Ranking Members of the Oversight, Education and Labor, Agriculture, Energy and Natural Resources, and House Administration committees respectively.

“I want to thank Rep. Clyde for his leadership on this issue, as Congress works to secure answers and more information,”  NCC President Mike Brown said. “NCC, too, is concerned that the timelines put forth by FSIS are unreasonable and unworkable, and there is an abundant lack of clarifying information needed to comply with the vast amount of information requested by the Agency. NCC looks forward to the Agency providing answers to Congress and to industry as soon as possible.”

The House letter follows an August 17 letter NCC sent to the Department requesting a delay in implementation of the study.

The full House letter can be found here.

 

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