Foreign counties under trade policies can ship and sell meat and poultry anywhere in the United States. But if those same products are offered from domestic sources with anything less than federal inspection they are limited to their state of origin.
That may finally be changing.
It was almost four years ago that state agricultural commissioners were successful in getting interstate shipment of state-inspected meat included in the 2008 Farm Bill.
But that did not bring immediate change, especially from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which had to write the regulatory framework or rule required to make the program work. And that process had become so bogged down that some state officials thought they’d have to bring up the issue again in the 2012 Farm Bill.
On Tuesday, all that changed when FSIS issued a final rule allowing products from smaller state-inspected plants to be sold across state lines.
In making the announcement, FSIS said the voluntary, cooperative interstate shipment program will permit select establishments to ship meat and poultry across state lines under the official USDA mark of inspection.
“We’re excited to announce this new rule that offers smaller plants the opportunity to expand their market and sell their products to new customers,” said FSIS administrator Al Almanza. “Allowing these state-inspected establishments to ship their products across state lines has the potential to expand rural development and jobs, increase local tax bases, strengthen rural communities, and ensure that food is safe for consumers.”
In participating states, state-inspected establishments selected to take part in this program will be required to comply with all federal standards under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). These establishments will receive inspection services from state personnel who have been trained in the requirements of the FMIA and PPIA.
More than half the states have their own meat inspection programs, often serving niche markets. Since the 2008 Farm Bill was adopted, USDA and state ag commissioners have been at odds over the federal agency’s statutory authority and concerns about criteria it would use.