Ohio’s small, state inspected meat and poultry processors got some good news from USDA last Thursday — their market is expanding.
While speaking at a conference on farm and food issues sponsored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan made some news by announcing the agency’s new Interstate Shipment Program. Under the program, smaller, state inspected processors who were formerly not able to ship their products outside the state will be able to ship across state lines.
Where the market for a sausage maker, specialty poultry product producer or other meat or poultry processor was just the state of Ohio prior to the program, it’s now the entire United States.
“This agreement allows a small processor in Ohio to sell products to neighbors in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and beyond,” said Deputy Secretary Merrigan. “Expanding market opportunities for meat from local processors makes these small businesses more viable, while also ensuring that participating establishments have robust food safety systems in place to produce safe food for consumers.”
“With one out of every seven jobs in Ohio tied to agriculture, today’s announcement means bolstering Ohio’s agricultural economy and connecting Ohio’s rural businesses with new opportunities across state lines,” Brown said.
Under the cooperative agreement, small, state-inspected businesses with 25 or fewer employees will be allowed to sell meat products across state lines. Meat products produced in selected establishments will be subject to the same regulatory sampling programs as those established in the Federal inspection program.
The Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program was established by the 2008 Farm Bill. In 2011, USDA finalized regulations to allow state employees to administer federal regulations and use federal marks of inspection at selected establishments. Prior to the establishment of this program, state-inspected businesses could only sell products within their state.
State-inspected establishments interested in shipping interstate should contact their state’s meat inspection program. In addition, USDA will shortly publish a directive detailing how states and small businesses can join the Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program. The USDA’s Small Plant Help Desk is also available to help small meat businesses understand regulatory requirements. The Help Desk can be reached between 8am and 4pm EST, Monday through Friday, at 1-877-FSISHelp.