WASHINGTON — As the intended date for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish its proposed new wastewater regulations nears, meat industry stakeholders and legislators continue to press the agency to consider small processors in its rule.

Eight Republican senators sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan in early November, asking him to ensure small meat processors were being fairly considered under proposed revisions to the Meat and Poultry Products (MPP) Effluent Guidelines and Standards.

“As you know, small to mid-sized meat and poultry processing facilities have a vital role in the economy,” the senators wrote. “This was proven throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when these facilities remained open while large facilities were closed. Additionally, many federal resources have been used to expand meatpacking capacity, so we need to ensure that these very small and small facilities do not face regulations that will force them to close.”

The senators asked Regan to explain what testing and data has been collected from small processing operations as well as to outline the number of small processing facilities with which the agency has engaged while drafting its revisions. They asked him to respond to their letter and questions no later than Nov. 15.

The letter was signed by Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James Risch (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

EPA intends to publish its proposed rule in December 2023, with a comment period immediately following.

The White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) review is the final step in the federal regulatory review process prior to approval for a federal agency to release a regulation.

Last week, representatives from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), US Poultry and Egg Association and the North American Meat Institute met with OIRA officials to discuss concerns about the upcoming rule.

During the meeting, NPPC addressed the impact that the proposed rule would have on pork producers who are already struggling in a tight economy. The association anticipates that many won’t be able to afford the potential loss of further markets that might occur under the proposed rule. NPPC added that the impact on small and medium sized processors runs contrary to the Biden administration’s efforts to foster growth within the meat and poultry processing sector.

EPA’s proposed rule is expected to require processors to install millions of dollars of upgrades to their wastewater management systems.