Ohio first to join USDA interstate meat shipping program

By Sarah Gonzalez

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WASHINGTON, August 9, 2012- Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that Ohio will be the first state to participate in USDA's Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program. Under this program, Ohio's small, state-inspected meat processors will be able to ship their products across state lines.

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“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 safe, locally-produced food,” according to USDA. 

For example, Merrigan said Ohio's Great Lakes Smoked Meats made a deal with a grocery chain to ship material across state lines so that 300 of the chain's 900 stores can sell Great Lakes meat, which is expected to triple the processor's bottom line. 

Merrigan told reporters that Wisconsin, Indiana and North Dakota should soon follow Ohio as participants of the program. She noted that the program is “about the small and very small” meat processors that are state-inspected. Federally inspected processors are already able to cross state borders, but Merrigan said the smaller processors under state inspection programs are not currently able to serve their entire regions or population areas if near a state border.  

In order to qualify, processors must be in one of 27 states with a state inspection program and employ 25 or fewer people. This qualification, a statue of the program included the 2008 farm bill, could be flexible during seasonal hiring, she noted. 

The state inspection program the processor participates in must be the “same as” the federal inspection program. Merrigan said states may need to make changes to meet the “same as” stipulation in their testing laboratories and processes. 

While Ohio needed to make changes to meet the inspection qualifications, Merrigan said she thinks the state “broke the logjam” and that the collaboration between USDA and the state inspection program is “in a better position to move forward with other states.”  She said it took about a year for Ohio to become the first active participant in the program.


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