USDA cooperative allows interstate meat sales: Ohio the first to join

COLUMBUS — The Buckeye State is set to become the first in the nation to allow interstate sales of state-inspected meats from small processors.

In an announcement Aug. 9, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan said the state will be allowed to participate in a cooperative interstate shipment program that will expand economic opportunities for small meat and poultry processors.

“This agreement allows a small processor in Ohio to sell products to neighbors in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and beyond,” Merrigan said in a prepared statement.

Local foods

The announcement was made Aug. 9 during U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s local foods conference, held at the Ohio State University Columbus campus.

Before this policy, small meat producers could only sell within state lines.

Small-scale meat producers include those who are state-inspected businesses with 25 or fewer employees. Meat and poultry products produced in selected establishments will be subject to the same regulatory sampling programs as those established in the federal inspection program.

New markets

Ohio Agriculture Director David Daniels said the agreement will open new market opportunity for Ohio meat processors. He said Ohio’s state inspection program has been rated “at least equal to” the federal program since 1969.

“We wanted to be the first state granted approval in this new program because we’re proud of our home-grown companies,” he said. “For our small and specialty meat processors in Ohio, this is a long-overdue opportunity to expand their customer base and get their products into new markets without making burdensome and costly changes to their facilities.”

Ben Flinger, president of Great Lakes Smoked Meats, in Lorain, said the new agreement will allow for sales growth, and the addition of employees.

“We’ve been contacted by specialty grocery stores in other states asking to stock our products and I haven’t been able to do business with them until now,” he said. “This is huge for our company and will allow us to grow and to add jobs.”

The details

State-inspected establishments interested in shipping interstate should contact their state’s meat inspection program.

In addition, USDA will soon 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 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, at 1-877-FSISHelp.

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