Congress needs to act for NH to have a thriving food economy: Commentary

We have been raising animals for meat to be sold to our local community since 2021 as Forsyth Family Farm LLC. We have been engaged in local food production in New Hampshire since 2017 and over a decade in Arizona. In that time, we have gained an understanding of the meat processing industry.

The meat processing industry within New Hampshire has been volatile for many years. At the same time the demand for locally sourced meat has grown.
The meat processing industry within New Hampshire has been volatile for many years. At the same time the demand for locally sourced meat has grown.

The meat processing industry within the state of New Hampshire has been volatile for many years. At the same time, the demand for locally sourced meat has grown. Six years ago when we began, it was virtually impossible to get meat animals processed in a manner that would be ideal for a meat producing business.

Although less than ideal, it was manageable. This has changed. In 2020, with the onset of the pandemic and its impact on the supply chain, we experienced a 100% increase in demand for locally grown meat. Farms all over the state have been increasing production to try and meet this increase in demand. However there has been little to no increase in our state's ability to process meat within USDA inspected facilities.

The processors have been trying to manage this by scheduling further and further out. That approach was a Band-Aid and is reaching a crisis point. As a producer, we have to reconcile with the reality that regardless of demand, if we can’t process our animals, we cannot raise them at all.

This moment is approaching for us and many others, so the question lawmakers need to ask is, do we want our state to have a thriving local food economy?  I hope the answer is yes, and if it is, what is a realistic way to address this issue in a manner that is timely enough, and still maintains the standards we have of food safety? It is clear that the people of New Hampshire have decided that they want our local food economy to thrive by choosing to support these businesses.

The state has made progress via support to the already existing meat processing establishments, as well as the rebuilding of East Conway Beef and Pork, which burned down in April 2022. As farmers, we are grateful, but the current effort is not enough to maintain the growth in the industry going forward. This is vital for the long-term sustainability of our local food shed and food security of our community.

The people of New Hampshire are increasingly seeing the value in having a short supply chain with regards to food production. We believe it is our responsibility as producers and the responsibility of public representatives to respect those values. The state of New Hampshire is helping improve the situation but help is needed at the federal level.

In the last Congress, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House by Congressman Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, that would alleviate this bottleneck quickly and effectively, without the need for the state to spend more money. House Bill 3835 The “PRIME Act” is thoughtfully crafted to continue to protect the consumers' safety and provide relief to the food security issues that a long “just in time” supply chain have created. Unfortunately, the bill draws little interest in its passing.

Food security is a non-partisan issue. We respectfully ask Congressman Chris Pappas of New Hampshire to co-sponsor the reintroduction of this bill into the 118th Congress. We also request Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan to co-sponsor a similar bill to introduce to the Senate.

Together we can ease the angst of the shopper looking to serve dinner, and bring us closer to a more sustainable existence.

Amy Forsyth and Kyle Forsyth operate a farm in Barrington, New Hampshire.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: NH needs Congress action to have thriving food economy: Commentary