Interstate Shipment of Meat Levels The Playing Fields

WASHINGTON – National Farmers Union, along with Consumer Federation of America, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, American Federation of Government Employees, Food & Water Watch, Center for Science in the Public Interest, National Consumers League, Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, Government Accountability Project, and United Food and Commercial Workers, announced today they have come to an agreement on the interstate shipment of meat and poultry products. The compromise legislation will be made part of the U.S. Senate farm bill.
calendar icon 24 October 2007
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"It opens up new opportunities to small processors whose markets have been restricted by the limitations placed on state inspection.”

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

The consumer, labor and farm group compromise will create a program for interstate sales and shipment of meat and poultry products from certain small plants. The plants will operate under the requirements of the Federal Meat and Poultry Inspection Acts. The resulting products will bear the USDA inspection seal and can be sold in interstate commerce.

“It has taken many years to reach this compromise and I am pleased smaller producers will finally have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. For too long, small producers have been shut out of markets but will now be able to ship their high-quality products across state lines,” NFU President Tom Buis said.

“The first priority of meat and poultry inspection is protecting us and our families from foodborne illness. This bill safeguards public health by continuing the requirement that all products shipped in interstate commerce are subject to the federal meat and poultry inspection acts. Tough safety standards protect those who produce food as well as those who consume it,” Consumer Federation of America Distinguished Fellow Carol Tucker Foreman said.

“Our state-inspected, locally-produced meats are some of the best, safest and high quality specialty products in this country. American consumers deserve greater access to safe, nutritious products from state-inspected meat and poultry processors. And American livestock producers, processors and small businesses deserve to compete in the national marketplace. It’s just common sense and it’s the right thing to do,” National Association of State Departments of Agriculture President Roger Johnson said.

“We are extremely pleased with this agreement since it will ensure strong food safety standards for meat and poultry products that enter into interstate commerce while at the same time it opens up new opportunities to small processors whose markets have been restricted by the limitations placed on state inspection,” Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said.

“On behalf of the 6,500 federal meat and poultry inspectors, we at AFGE support this new agreement because it will improve food safety by strengthening federal inspection. The new agreement requires that small meat and poultry plants that want to sell in interstate commerce must comply with federal meat and poultry inspection laws and operate under the close supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” AFGE Legislative Director Beth Moten said.

The Act would:

  • Create a new, optional program for companies previously operating under state inspection laws that want to sell in interstate commerce;
  • Require companies to operate under the federal meat and poultry inspection laws and provide federal oversight of operations in these plants;
  • Encourage states to increase food safety testing by having USDA reimburse states for 100 percent of the costs for testing that exceeds the testing frequency of the federal government;
  • Covers establishments with up to 25 employees;
  • Direct USDA to develop a procedure for establishments that employ more than 25 employees and want to ship in interstate commerce to help those companies transition to federal inspection;
  • Provide for companies in the program to use a federal mark, stamp, tag or label of inspection;
  • Reimburse states for not less than 60 percent of the costs of operating the Title V program;
  • Establish the position of State Coordinator, a federal employee, who will provide oversight and enforcement;
  • oversee training and inspection activities;
  • assure that plants are in full compliance of the Federal Meat Inspection Act and this Title;
  • and report to the Secretary of USDA on status of the plant operations;
  • Establish an inspection training division within the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to coordinate initiatives to provide outreach, education, and training to small or very small establishments;
  • Require USDA’s Office of Inspector General to conduct periodic audits to assure plants operating under Title V are complying with federal requirements;
  • and Offer states an optional inspection tool. States will continue to maintain their current Title III cooperative agreements with USDA which require state inspection programs to be at least “equal to” federal requirements. USDA will continue their oversight of these programs, which includes an annual review of nine detailed components. States will still be required to implement any regulations, directives, and guidance issued by USDA, including all federal food safety and consumer protection requirements.

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