The U.S. Department of Agriculture may allow faster line speeds at pork packing plants under a proposal now being considered by the White House. In July, packing plants operating under the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) had to slow down pursuant to a March federal court ruling that struck down the system’s increased line speed provision.
The National Pork Producers Council aggressively engaged for months on the matter, proposing a number of options to allow faster line speeds and pointing out, including in recent comments to USDA, that increasing line speeds to the safe operating levels at which many plants operated under a 20-year pilot program would expand pork packing capacity by about 2.5 percent. (The packing industry lost that much capacity when the federal court’s ruling on the NSIS line speed provision took effect July 1.) Lost harvest capacity took away economic leverage from hog farmers, NPPC pointed out. According to industry and union sources, the line speed proposal under consideration by the administration has the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. The UFCW, which represents employees at most of the major meatpackers, brought the lawsuit against the NSIS provision that resulted in the March ruling. The new proposal would allow some pork plants to harvest more hogs per hour in return for increased staffing.