The Montana House of Representatives sent a bill to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk Wednesday that would allow state-inspected Montana meat to be sold across state lines.
Rep. Brandon Ler, R-Savage, sponsored House Bill 336 and said the bill was a response to the pandemic.
"When you consolidate 80% of all the meat processed into four plants — and something like COVID hits — it threatens to cause a food shortage across the state and nation," Ler said.
Early opposition to the bill raised concerns about whether the federal government might strike down such a law, but an amendment alleviated those concerns and the bill drew broad support.
Supporters said it was a way to expand markets for producers. Makenna Sellers spoke on behalf of the Northern Plains Resource Council.
"If we can get more sales for them, that’s a step in the right direction," Sellers said.
Under current law, only meat packaged in federally-inspected facilities is allowed to be sold across Montana state lines. There are 25 federally inspected meat, poultry and egg facilities in the state.
The bill sailed through both houses with nearly unanimous votes.
James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.