The Agriculture Department "will again allow faster line speeds in a select few pork processing plants as part of a pilot project after a federal court in Minnesota vacated a USDA rule earlier this year," Todd Neeley reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer. The court "struck down a provision of USDA's New Swine Inspection System, or NSIS, allowing for faster harvest-facility line speeds. NSIS was initiated during the Clinton administration and was evaluated at five pilot plants over the past 20 years." USDA told DTN it will let "existing NSIS facilities to apply for up to a one-year trial to operate at increased line speeds." Existing NSIS plants are in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Oklahoma.
Faster line speeds not only increase injury concerns, but also probably help spread the coronavirus. USDA said participating plants must implement extra worker safety measures as part of the deal. The pilot facilities would experiment with different ergonomics, automation and crewing approaches to see how they can increase productivity without sacrificing safety for workers or the food they process. USDA said it will collect that data from the facilities and share it with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for input on future rulemaking, Neeley reports.