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USDA Advisory Committee Urges Unnecessary Tinkering with Custom Exempt Meat and Poultry Regulations

Chrys Ostrander
2 weeks 3 days ago.

Picture of livestock producer selling livestock.

The National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection is a body of stakeholders who advise and make recommendations to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). On Sept. 27 and 28, 2021, the Advisory Committee met to discuss a request for information that the Advisory Committee had received from the FSIS administration. FSIS asked the Advisory Committee if it is necessary to "clarify the Agency's positions on the custom and retail exemptions to ensure that meat, poultry, and egg products produced under the exemptions are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged."

The Advisory Committee was asked the following questions:

1) Should FSIS conduct rulemaking to set a numerical limit on the number of individuals allowed to co-own an animal presented for slaughter/processing under the custom exemption provision?

2) Should FSIS conduct rulemaking to clarify that collectively-owned membership organizations or other firms (e.g., a group of individuals residing across disparate locations organized into a “livestock ownership co-op” via an online platform) cannot “own” animals for purposes of the custom exemption?

3) Should FSIS conduct rulemaking to clarify that custom operators should maintain records that demonstrate an exact correspondence between the individuals owning a particular animal prior to slaughter and the individuals receiving any part of the products derived from that animal?

Sadly, the Advisory Committee, despite its talent, expertise and good intentions, fell prey to the temptation of ignoring the part of the question that asked "should FSIS conduct rulemaking" and went directly into discussions of what the new rules should be. 

The questions before the Advisory Committee asked whether rulemaking was necessary but the Advisory Committee failed to provide any evidence indicating that the utilization by the public of the custom exemptions under current standards and practices was leading to any empirical food safety problem. 

While some members of the Advisory Committee generally supported the way custom slaughter and processing is currently being utilized, none voiced the opinion that no rulemaking needs to be undertaken since the system was operating as intended with no actionable evidence of an elevated level of risk to public health. 

When answering the question why are any new regulations needed at all, the answers included subjective considerations such as that the regulations were written a long time ago, or that more people are doing it now. Fictional worst-case scenarios were offered such as the guy who brings a cow every day to custom slaughter-- you know he's not eating all that meat-- or what if 300 people end up owning a cow? It was pointed out by other Advisory Committee members that guy selling the meat would be breaking the law and that would not be the fault of the custom exempt facility or the underlying regulations.

Mythical accounts were offered of what the original intent of Congress was when they put the exemption into law in the first place such as, for example, that Congress intended it only for farmers who raise meat for their own families whereby in practice since its inception it has more often afforded the ability of non-farmers to purchase meat for their families from local producers.

Custom slaughter and processing exempt from USDA inspection is a long-time tradition in many communities. It is a model for obtaining fresh, locally-produced meat products that is being adopted by more and more people who include meat in their diets and seek to eat more locally-produced foods. The custom exemption at 21 U.S.C. 623(a) and 464(c)(1)(B) allows facilities to operate without Federal inspection if they slaughter and process livestock for the exclusive private use of the owner of the livestock, members of the owner's household, or the owner's nonpaying guests or employees. 

What likely will happen as a result of the Advisory Committee's recommendation to FSIS to proceed with rulemaking is that a formal rulemaking process will be initiated at some point by FSIS. That process would include extensive opportunity for public comment and it would be a battle to defend the current system that is working as intended from being ruined by unnecessarily tinkering with the regulations.

If the Advisory Committee recommendations ultimately result in new rules, it would be a perfect example of over-regulation, or, regulation for regulation's sake.

Please listen to these two public comments made on Sept. 28 to the Advisory Committee by Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance and Johnathan Hladik, Policy Director for the Center for Rural Affairs.

Judith McGeary (3 minutes) >> LISTEN

Johnathan Hladik (3 minutes) >> LISTEN

The next step will be for people and organizations to flood the FSIS administration with messages the persuade FSIS to abandon any plans to conduct any unnecessary rulemaking to "clarify the Agency's positions on the custom and retail exemptions" because the current system is already doing a good job of ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products produced under the exemptions are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

Contact Paul Kiecker, FSIS Administrator
Paul.Kiecker@usda.gov
(202) 720-7025

=====

Final Recommendations on Custom and Retail Exemptions from Federal Inspection by the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, Approved Sept. 28, 2021. Source: National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection 9/28/2021 Webinar Shared Screen

A.    Should FSIS conduct rulemaking to set a numerical limit on the number of individuals allowed to co-own an animal presented for slaughter or processing under the custom exemption provision? If so, what factors should the Agency consider, if any, to determine the limits for different amenable species?

1.    Recommendation: The subcommittee is divided on whether limits should be set on the number of individuals allowed to co-own an animal presented for slaughter or processing under the custom exemption provision. 

2.    Recommendation: Although there was not consensus on whether a limit should be proposed, if FSIS seeks to set a limit on the number of individuals allowed to co-own an animal presented for slaughter or processing under the custom exemption provision, it should set separate limits for different species. 

3.    Recommendation: If limits are set, an owner(s) could be collectively owned membership organizations or firms [sic]. See recommendations below on these types of owners. 

4.    Recommendation: FSIS should focus its efforts on robust record keeping and traceability requirements for custom operators. 


B.    Should FSIS conduct rulemaking to clarify that collectively-owned membership organizations or other firms cannot "own" animals for purposes of the custom exemption?

1.     Recommendation: FSIS should clarify (by an appropriate regulatory mechanism) that collectively owned membership organizations or other firms can "own" animals for purposes of the custom exemption provided records are maintained that all receivers of product were owners of the animal before slaughter. 

2.    Recommendation: Rulemaking should be conducted to set parameters on collectively owned membership organizations or other firms, such as records of the names and contact information for all "owners" and informed consent of receiving uninspected products from each "owner." 


C.    Should FSIS conduct rulemaking to clarify that custom operators must maintain records that demonstrate an exact correspondence between the individuals owning a particular animal prior to slaughter and the individuals receiving any part of the products derived from that animal?

1.     Recommendation: FSIS should clarify (by an appropriate regulatory mechanism) that custom operators must maintain records that demonstrate correspondence between the owner(s) of a particular animal prior to slaughter and the owner(s) receiving any part of the products derived from that animal.
 


Coeur d’Alene Tribe Purchases Latah Valley Land Saving it from Development

4 weeks 1 day ago.

Aerial view of Latah Valley

Coeur d’Alene Tribe buys Latah Creek property, spares it from residential development
Spokesman Review, 09/16/2021

Read more...

 


Press Release: 9/16/21

Contact: Jennifer Fletcher
Public Affairs Director
Coeur d’Alene Tribe
208.686.2023
jfletcher@cdatribe-nsn.gov

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe Finalizes 48 Acre Land Purchase on the Lower Hangman (Latah) Creek Watershed

The highly awaited decision on the fate of the Pilcher Property has finally come to a close this week, with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe finalizing on the purchase of this significant 48 acre parcel located on Hangman Creek, just inside Spokane city limits. The “Pilcher” property, a moniker coined after the name of the property owner John Pilcher, is a 48-acre property located in Spokane County, Highway 195 lying directly to the west, and Interstate 90 approximately 1 1/2 miles to the north.

What makes this property so notable is that it holds 48 of the last of 150 acres of zoned agricultural land within Spokane city limits. This particular stretch of Hangman Creek flows for nearly half a mile through the property before joining the Spokane River just a little over three miles downstream, and is one of the last undeveloped stretches of Hangman Creek within Spokane County.

After a lengthy tug-of-war between the public and private sector over the fate of this flagship property, in June 2019 JRP Land LLC, the owner of the ‘Pilcher’ property received conditional approval to sub-divide the property into 96 separate lots for a potential housing development. This significant turn of events spurred on a renewed conservation effort by city officials and others, as the prospect for this new subdivision raised concerns about additional traffic on Highway 195, along with the loss of farmland and the potential harm to ecological function along the creek stemming from the residential construction process.In January 2021, the Tribe was asked to step in, in a final push to save the historical integrity and ecosystem functionality of this essential habitat from becoming another residential development project.

For Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan, this purchase represents “an important opportunity for the Tribe to reestablish a presence in our aboriginal territory.” He shares that this area, known to the Tribe as qu’yu (place where Oregon grape grows), “has a connection to our people, as old as time.” Preceding its century-old incarnation as a farming homestead, historical records show that the area around the Pilcher property would have been used as a smłich (salmon) camp or village for both the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Tribes in the summer and fall months:

“[Tribes] would come here each autumn from miles around to lay in their winter’s supply of dried fish...At that season the white salmon used to come up the river in great numbers. I have seen them so thick that the rocks on the bottom would not be visible and the fish would have great sores on them from being thrown against the rocks while they fought their way upstream...They had traps sets set there and besides would spear and hook them in all sorts of ways...They would build high scaffolds of willow limbs and fish without salt and they would pack their fish and take it home.”
James. N. Glover, 1873

A Coeur d’Alene man (known only as Antelope), living in Worley, Idaho in 1934, described this area saying, “This village was situated on Latah (Hangman) creek about a mile above the point where the highway bridge now crosses the creek. It was a populous permanent settlement valued as a salmon and trout fishing grounds and for the abundant game, including deer, antelope, and beaver which the surrounding territory provided.” (Pacific Northwest Quarterly 27 (2)).

The Tribe is looking forward to the possibility of developing new partnerships with the community on outcomes for the property including preservation, restoration and access. Ultimately, it is the Tribe’s goal to enhance the property’s ecological value in a way that promotes the return of salmon. Tribal Natural Resources Director Caj Matheson states:“This property will provide a unique opportunity for the Tribe to carry the message of salmon restoration further downstream in Hangman Creek and across the state line in to Washington. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe is pleased to be returning to its aborignal territory and waterways; [our focus] is, and will always be, on returning salmon to these waterways and all of the different ways that can be achieved.”

‘ats’ qhnt’ wesh is the Coeur d’Alene word that describes its core value of stewardship, meaning “to care for all things with integrity, responsibility, accountablity and social awareness in all spheres of life, human animals, natural resources, and the cosmos.” This purchase is an opportunity for the Tribe to reestablish themselves as stewards of this historically-significant place. It symbolizes a reunion of a people and place, commemorating a time when our ancestors once rendezvoused with other tribes to fish (q’aq’amiye’) and celebrate in the bounty of nature.

References:
The University of Washington. (1936). The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, XXVII (2), 136–136.


Latah Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Heritage Project
(LEAF)

Press Release

For Immediate Release: September 15, 2021

Contact: Trevor Finchamp
509-992-6399
tfinchamp@gmail.com

Urban Conservation Coalition Applauds Coeur d'Alene Tribe for Spokane Land Purchase

Sept. 15, 2021, Spokane, WA - On September 14, the signing of final closing papers completed the transfer of title of 48 acres of lush open space in the Latah Valley south of downtown Spokane, Washington to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. In a letter sent today, the Latah Environment, Agriculture & Fisheries Heritage Project (LEAF) expressed unqualified support to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's successful effort to acquire this land. In the letter, LEAF welcomed the opportunity to assist the Tribe in helping build relationships in the community that would foster the achievement of their preservation, restoration, and access goals to, in the Tribe's words, "enhance the property's ecological value in a way that promotes the return of salmon."

LEAF is an ad hoc coalition made up of local nonprofits and interested citizens and assisted by City staff Brian McClatchey and Erik Poulsen. Members of LEAF joined forces in late 2020 to try and find a way to preserve the open space instead of it being developed into a housing complex. The group began meeting regularly in an effort to come up with alternative scenarios and funding mechanisms and spent a majority of its time developing a plan for public acquisition of the property. Plans for private purchase were also discussed. The LEAF group’s efforts to develop a public acquisition plan did not meet with success although LEAF was able to raise awareness about the value of the property as open space. LEAF is pleased that the assistance it was able to provide the Coeur d'Alene Tribe played a significant role and contributed to this momentous outcome.

In January, LEAF reached out to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. The Spokane and Coeur d'Alene tribes were the original caretakers of this place. Traditionally, they used to hunt, camp, fish and gather there. Through last spring and summer, LEAF assisted the Tribe by describing the property and providing the Tribe with voluminous files of information about the parcel. This helped inform the Tribe as it opened its lengthy negotiations with landowner John Pilcher of JRP Land, LLC. Those negotiations culminated yesterday with the finalization of the purchase.

 

"Spokane is changing. We are experiencing a huge influx of folks wanting to move to our area. This is a unique piece of property at a unique place and time. There are no other 48-acre pieces of open space like this along lower Hangman Creek, so we're thrilled that one of the local tribes has been able to secure this acquisition."

--Marc Gauthier, member of the LEAF Heritage Project

 

The property is at the south end of an area of south Spokane nestled between State Route 195 and the steep bluffs of High Drive Bluff Park at the foot of which flows Hangman Creek. The farm represents about 30% of the City of Spokane's only "Residential Agricultural" zone where commercial farming is allowed, as well as private homes. There are farms and greenhouse operations in Vinegar Flats, but much of the good agricultural soil has already been built over by homes and forever lost for farming.

Several attempts have been made over the years to put the land into conservation that did not come to fruition. This time, a jolt was felt by conservationists and city officials alike in 2019 when a conditional permit was approved to allow building a 96-unit gated housing development on the land. This sparked renewed interest, if not passion, to try and save the parcel from development. In the spring of 2020, a steady string of behind the scenes discussions, letter-writing campaigns, involvement of local conservation organizations and several newspaper and radio news stories became part of a strategy to build public awareness as well as political pressure to save the 48 acres. City Council Member Lori Kinnear and Council President Breean Beggs have been closely involved in this project.

In response to the energetic public discussion, in late October 2020, LEAF organized a tour hosted by JRP Land, LLC, for city and county staff and others interested in public acquisition. Representatives from several conservation organizations, City of Spokane officials and a Spokane County Commissioner gathered at the farm, located just south of the Vinegar Flats neighborhood, to discuss its future. After the tour, the landowners expressed their continuing interest in selling the property to the City or County if a suitable plan were to be offered, however, they also reiterated their interest in selling the property to an interested developer unless they saw a clear plan for public acquisition. Shortly after the late October tour, LEAF began meeting in an effort to come up with a plan to save the property from development. The purchase by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe lays the fear of development finally at rest.

 

Members of the LEAF Heritage Project in alphabetical order by first name:

Addie Candib, American Farmland Trust

Brian Estes, The Local Inland Northwest Cooperative (LINC)

Chrys Ostrander, Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group

Dave Schaub, Inland Northwest Land Conservancy

Ian Cunningham, private citizen

Jerry White, Spokane Riverkeeper

Kai Huschke, Latah-Hangman Neighborhood Council

Kirsten Angell, Sustainability Action Subcommittee of the Spokane City Council

Marc Gauthier, private citizen

Pat Keegan, Friends of the Bluff

Paul Kropp, Inland Northwest Trails Coalition

Todd Dunfield, Inland Northwest Land Conservancy

Trevor Finchamp, Friends of the Bluff

Vicki Carter, Spokane Conservation District

More:

A video produced by Friends of the Bluff, a community group of volunteers formed in 2010 to be stewards of the High Drive Bluff Park in Spokane, WA, and member of the LEAF Heritage Project. https://youtu.be/e4B0mdKq9mE


Latah Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Heritage Project (LEAF) - Letter of Support to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe

September 15, 2021

Coeur d’Alene Tribe
Plummer, ID

Tribal Chair and Council,

On behalf of the individuals and organizations that comprise the Latah Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Heritage Project (LEAF), we would like to express our strong support for the purchase of the Pilcher property by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. We are grateful to the Tribe's persistence and deep vision that resulted in this successful acquisition.

The LEAF Heritage Project group formed last year to investigate and promote a strategy for protecting and conserving the 48-acre property of historical significance along Hangman Creek which faced the possibility of becoming a high-density housing development. The LEAF group’s efforts to develop a public acquisition plan did not meet with success although we were able to raise awareness about the value of the property as open space. We are pleased that the assistance we were able to provide the Coeur d'Alene Tribe played a significant role and contributed to this momentous outcome.

LEAF committed to a strategy that met the following criteria and principles:

• Protection of the land from development.

• Focus on watershed and creekside restoration, reflecting to the community the value and meaning of ecological principles of natural regeneration complexity.

• Remembrance of the heritage and legacy of the First Peoples, respecting and honoring the sacrifices and ongoing presence of the ancestors of the land, reflecting to the community the value and meaning of their story.

• Restoration of the fishery, for bringing about the return of salmonids, offers hope to future generations, reflecting to the community the value and meaning of working for the benefit of the seventh generation.

• Reclaiming a communal culture of food making, reflecting to the community the value and meaning of building well-being for all creation.

Today we celebrate that our criteria have been met by this purchase.

The LEAF Heritage Project unanimously expresses our unqualified support for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s effort to acquire this land and further your restoration vision. We welcome the opportunity to assist the Tribe in helping build relationships in the community that would foster the achievement of your preservation, restoration and access goals to "enhance the property’s ecological value in a way that promotes the return of salmon."

Please let us know if there is anything you need from the LEAF group and if we can support the Tribe in any way in this endeavor.

Members of the LEAF Heritage Project in alphabetical order by first name:

Addie Candib, American Farmland Trust
Brian Estes, The Local Inland Northwest Cooperative (LINC)
Chrys Ostrander, Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group
Dave Schaub, Inland Northwest Land Conservancy
Ian Cunningham, private citizen
Jerry White, Spokane Riverkeeper
Kai Huschke, Latah-Hangman Neighborhood Council
Kirsten Angell, Sustainability Action Subcommittee of the Spokane City Council
Marc Gauthier, private citizen
Pat Keegan, Friends of the Bluff
Paul Kropp, Inland Northwest Trails Coalition
Todd Dunfield, Inland Northwest Land Conservancy
Trevor Finchamp, Friends of the Bluff
Vicki Carter, Spokane Conservation District
Email: leafteam@leafproject.net


Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 16, 2021

Contact: Chrys Ostrander
914-246-0309 (voice and text)
chrys@spokanefarmland.org

Coeur d’Alene Tribe Preserves Spokane Farmland in Latah Valley Purchase

Sept. 16, 2021, Spokane, WA – The people of Spokane and future generations have the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to thank for preserving 48 acres of some of the last zoned agricultural land in the city with the Tribe’s purchase of the property that closed on Tuesday. Sometimes referred to as the Pilcher farm after one of its former owners, the property abuts the High Drive Bluff Park south of the Vinegar Flats neighborhood. Hangman Creek flows through the property which historically was a major salmon run and essential to the indigenous food system. The Tribe seeks to "enhance the property’s ecological value in a way that promotes the return of salmon."

The Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group made a significant contribution to the process that has culminated in this historic achievement. The Working Group sounded the alarm early when a conditional permit to build 94 homes on the farmland was approved by City Planning in 2019. The Working Group is an independent committee of concerned individuals. It developed an outreach campaign to educate the public about the threat of losing this valuable open space. As a result, city officials heard from constituents that alternatives to development should be explored including possibly spending public money to buy the property.

The Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group then joined the Latah Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Heritage Project (LEAF). LEAF is a coalition made up of city staff, local nonprofits and interested citizens that explored various scenarios in an effort to piece together a plan for the purchase of the land so it would remain open space.

In late October 2020, LEAF organized a tour of the property. Representatives from several conservation organizations, City of Spokane officials and a Spokane County Commissioner gathered at the farm, hosted by JRP Land, LLC, the property owners. Topics of discussion revolved around restoring the shoreline and preserving the open space including by means of public acquisition.

Ultimately, with no viable public option identified, in January LEAF facilitated the initiation of negotiations between the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the landowner that resulted in this week’s purchase by the Tribe.

The Spokane Farmland Preservation Working Group is very pleased with this auspicious outcome of a long and difficult process and is grateful to the Tribe for making it possible. The land is now safe and in good hands.


 


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