A rule allowing pork processors to set their own line speeds has been invalidated by a federal judge, in a lawsuit by workers saying the faster speeds jeopardized their safety.
The 2019 rule by the USDA was part of the “New Swine Inspection System” put into place by the Trump administration. It removed the previous cap of 1,106 hogs per hour and basically let processors run lines as fast as they wanted, as long as they avoided fecal contamination.
The rule was first put into effect at the Seaboard Foods plant in Guymon, Okla. Workers there told Reuters that it resulted in a higher injury rate.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union sued and a Minneapolis federal judge agreed that the line-speed cap was improperly removed. The ruling also stayed, for 90 days, another provision of the New Swine Inspection System that called for replacing some USDA inspectors with company personnel, pending revision by the USDA.
It’s questionable whether the Biden administration will appeal. The USDA under Biden has already withdrawn a rule, proposed during Trump’s term, to allow faster speeds on poultry lines. The New Swine Inspection System had already been enacted, so withdrawing it would be more difficult.