USDA to Provide Overtime Fee Relief to Small and Very-Small Establishments

One of the major complaints of smaller meat and poultry establishments is the cost of USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) overtime and holiday inspection services.

Meat and poultry establishments that are subject to mandatory inspection receive FSIS inspection services free of charge for each 8-hour shift the plant normally operates. Many plants only operate a single shift. If an establishment needs to operate beyond its allotted 8 hours, the establishment is required to pay FSIS overtime fees, currently $81.72/hour for each inspector (the base time rate is $66.56/hour). These fees add up and can be a deterrent to growth for smaller establishments and reduce our national slaughter capacity.

Congress has used recent pandemic-related legislation to provide relief from these overtime fees. The American Rescue Plan Act appropriated $100 million to USDA to provide overtime fee relief for small and very small meat and poultry establishments as well as small and very small official egg product plants for Fiscal Years 2021 – 2030.

FSIS is still gathering information and working out the details of the program, which will be announced in a future Federal Register notice, but here are a few things we already know about the forthcoming program:

Who will be eligible?

Section 1001(d) of the American Rescue Plan Act directs USDA to provide overtime fee relief to “small” and “very small” meat and poultry establishments and egg product official plants. FSIS defines these in the following manner:

  • Small establishments – 10 or more employees but fewer than 500 employees
  • Very small establishments – less than 10 employees OR less than $2.5 million in annual sales

What will be covered?

The overtime relief will be applied to overtime fees incurred between March 14, 2021, and September 30, 2030. We do not yet know how much relief will be provided to establishments on a per-hour basis.

How to apply

FSIS leadership has indicated that it will distribute a short questionnaire for establishments to complete to determine eligibility for the program. This questionnaire will be distributed when FSIS formally announces the program in the Federal Register.

FSIS leadership has stated that the program will be announced in the coming months. OFW will provide further information on this program to its clients when it is released.