State Regulations On Small Poultry Farmers Hurt Consumers

Mississippi regulators are preventing small poultry producers from operating a sustainable business by severely restricting the sale of safe and healthy poultry products.

The consequence is more limited access to diverse food options for families, students, hospital patients, restaurateurs and chefs.

More specifically, Mississippi Department of Agriculture (MDAC) regulations prohibit all but direct farm-to-consumer sales by small-scale poultry producers. This is contrary to Mississippi law, which has adopted a federal exemption that allows small producers to sell to grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, hospitals and other institutions.

In conformity with federal law, Mississippi law technically incorporates the federal 20,000 bird exemption, which allows poultry producers who raise fewer than 20,000 birds a calendar year to sell these birds without being subject to daily inspection and other facility requirements. MDAC regulations, however, do not recognize this mandated exemption in any meaningful way.

This means that Mississippi is forcing small poultry producers to follow federal requirements that were drafted with large-scale producers in mind. These requirements are onerous and expensive and address the unique problems created by large-scale poultry production. It is not appropriate to subject small producers to these requirements, which is why federal law has always allowed for a small producer (20,000 bird) exemption. Unlike other states that recognize the federal 20,000 bird exemption, Mississippi prohibits all but direct farm-to-consumer sales for small farmers. This completely undermines the purpose of the exemption. Mississippi agricultural regulations ban small producers from selling to restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, schools and hospitals. As a result, small poultry producers are denied access to distribution channels currently open to large producers.