FTCLDF Publishes Exempt Processing Map and Open Air Processing News

Originally published in APPPA Grit Issue 97 by Mike Badger

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) published a map of the United States showing the legal status of on-farm exempt processing under the 1,000 and 20,000 producer/grower exemptions, which is part of Public Law 90-492 (Poultry Products Inspection Act).

Exempt from processing means the poultry does not need to undergo bird-by-bird inspection by an inspector. With the lack of inspected facilities across the United States, exempt processing has been the foundation of the pastured broiler community because it gives small flock owners legal options to grow, process, and market poultry direct-to-consumers in a local economy.

Even though the federal law allows birds processed under exemption to be sold, individual states can accept one, both, or neither of the producer/grower exemptions. In summary, the map shows:

Florida and Louisiana only accept the 20,000 bird exemption.

Wisconsin, Georgia and Oklahoma only accept the 1,000 bird exemption.

Texas and Illinois have a modified exemption.

Every other state in the Union accepts both 1,000 and 20,000 bird exemptions.

There’s a difference between knowing what’s legally possible and complying with in-state regulations that make it possible to attain the exemption. However, this is an important first step in understanding what’s possible in 2017, as this landscape changes frequently.

Pete Kennedy, Esq. FTCLDF, confirmed that a lawyer evaluated each state as a basis for the map, but he admitted that FTCLDF didn’t have a lot of experience in some states. And some states don’t have a lot of experience with the federal exemptions, which is often where many problems originate.

The producer/grower exemptions are well summarized in many places, but generally the appeal of the federal law is that it gives small farmers a legal avenue to raise and process birds without a grant of inspection. Available markets include on-farm, farm markets, hotels, restaurants, and institutions. The production tiers in the exemptions are commonly used to establish jurisdiction between state/federal oversight and to establish limitations in each state.

Pete called the exemptions allowed under P.L. 90-492 one of the best federal laws because of the opportunities it provides. There are additional exemptions as part of P.L. 90-492 and for a good understanding, see the resource list at the end of this article.

Open Air Processing

A closely related issue to exempt processing is the idea of open-air processing, but it tends to be a contentious issue because most regulators can’t see out of their own box, and 9 CFR 381.1.10 specifically mentions sanitation within the context of walls and buildings.

Pete submitted a request via AskFSIS, specifically asking, “Is it possible to have an open-air, on­farm poultry slaughter/processing facility and still be in compliance with 9 CFR 381.10 and all other applicable federal regulations?”

The answer on July 31, 2015, from FSIS states in part, “Based on current policy, there is not a prescriptive requirement that a poultry exempt operator is prohibited from having some aspects of its slaughter done out of doors. Remember that guidelines (including the Sanitation Guide) are not to necessarily be interpreted as a prescriptive checklist for either an official establishment or an exempt operation.”

“The Poultry Products Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. § 464, states that the Secretary shall, by regulation and under such conditions, as to sanitary standards, practices, and procedures as he/she may prescribe, exempt from specific provisions of the Act, certain poultry producers. Consequently, the regulations for the poultry exemptions found in 9 CFR 381.10(a) state that exempt poultry shall be slaughtered and cut up and handled under such sanitary standards, practices and procedures as results in the preparation of poultry products that are not adulterated when so distributed. Therefore, there is not a specific FSIS regulation for exempt operators that prohibits open air or outdoor slaughter.”

In other words, it’s up to the operator to plan for and prevent adulteration by things such as vermin, flies, mice, birds, dirt, and dust. State and county regulators may enforce stricter sanitation controls than what is allowed under the federal law. Knowing FSIS’ guidance does not exclude open air processing and being able to provide a citation from the agency saying as much is a strong first step in knowing what’s possible.

I’d like to give a hat tip to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund for compiling these resources. They are available online at the following links:

“Open-Air Poultry Slaughter.” http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/poultry-map/q-hunter-usda-fsis-open-airpoultry-073115/

“Introduction to the FTCLDF On-Farm Poultry Processing Map.” http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/blog/2016/12/30/introduction-ftcldf-farm-poultry-processing-map/

“Guidance for Determining Whether a Poultry Slaughter or Processing operation is Exempt from Inspection Requirements of the PPIA.” http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/USDA-FSIS-Guide-Poultry_Slaughter_Exemption_0406.pdf


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