Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced Thursday that Ohio will be the first state to participate in USDA's Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program. Under this program, small, state-inspected meat processors will be able to ship their products across state lines. The cooperative interstate shipment program will expand economic opportunities for America's small meat and poultry processors, strengthen state and local economies, and increase consumer access to locally-produced food.
"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."
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 announcement is reflective of USDA's ongoing focus on strengthening the critical connection between farmers and consumers and supporting local and regional food systems. In June, USDA hosted an online discussion about local food transportation and availability, during which participants highlighted the importance of interstate commerce for small meat processors. The discussion was part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which was launched in September 2009. The initiative coordinates USDA resources and expertise on local and regional food systems.
Through this initiative, USDA integrates programs and policies that:
• Stimulate food- and agriculturally-based community economic development;
• Foster new opportunities for farmers and ranchers;
• Promote locally and regionally produced and processed foods;
• Cultivate healthy eating habits and educated, empowered consumers;
• Expand access to affordable fresh and local food; and
• Demonstrate the connection between food, agriculture, community and the environment.