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Small MT Food Processor: Fed Inspector 'Wants the Little Guys Out of Business'

Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., visited a small meat processor after reports it had been harassed by a federal meat inspector. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., visited a small meat processor after reports it had been harassed by a federal meat inspector. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
October 13, 2017

BUTTE, Mont. – Small meat processors in Montana hope the state's Congressional delegation will act soon to rein in a regional food inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last month, Montana Standard ran a story on harassment from Food Safety and Inspection Service front-line supervisor Dr. Jeffrey Legg, who has been issuing citations critics say have no basis and demanding costly changes for small-business owners.

Bart Riley, the owner of small wholesaler Riley's Meats, has been pushing back against Legg. He says the supervisor wanted his shop to stop using wooden pallets, but when he called a friend who works at a large plant in Missoula, he found that Legg was telling a different story there.

"He said, 'They never said anything,'" he charges. "He said they have hundreds of wooden pallets leave there every day right in the processing area, sending bacon all over the United States. But Seaboard Farms got lots of money and lots of lawyers and Legg's not going to mess with them. They just want all the little guys out of business."

Since the story ran, Montana's delegation in Washington has vowed an investigation and other actions. The FSIS did not respond to a request for comment. To date, no disciplinary action has been taken within the FSIS.

Riley says Rep. Greg Gianforte, in particular, has been very supportive and visited Riley's Meats a few weeks ago.

"This is the most hope I've had in 12 years staying here," he explains. "Prior to that, I don't know. There was a lot of days we didn't think we were going to make it."

Riley doesn't believe Legg is just a rogue agent. He thinks the USDA is harassing small businesses in the region. His business is subject to federal inspection because he sends meat across state lines. Riley's grandfather began the wholesaler in 1948.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT