WASHINGTON — Comments on a proposed rule to allow the interstate shipping of certain meat and poultry products were submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on Dec. 20. The proposal would establish a new cooperative state program — as directed under section 11015 of the 2008 Farm Bill — to permit selling and shipping meat across state lines.
N.C.B.A. said the program will help small establishments increase their businesses and open up new opportunities for cattle producers to do business at the local level. At present, meat processors operating under cooperative state-inspection programs are prohibited from selling their products out of state.
"This program is a great opportunity to grow local demand for beef and increase competition," said Kristina Butts, N.C.B.A. director, legislative affairs. "N.C.B.A. fought for this provision in the 2008 Farm Bill and we’re pleased that U.S.D.A. is finally working towards its implementation."
Although N.C.B.A. is pleased with the spirit of the program, it is asking F.S.I.S. to clarify guidance for establishments in states that potentially become ineligible to participate. The proposed rule states once an establishment applies to participate, it would have to transition and become federally inspected if it were ever de-selected from the program. It’s unclear what would happen to establishments participating in the voluntary program in the event its respective state was to become ineligible to participate.
"It could be devastating to local markets if a plant had to shut down because it’s not allowed to revert back to being a regular state-inspected plant," Ms. Butts said.
Cattle producers appreciate the opportunity for states to apply for transition grants to reimburse selected establishments for the cost of employee Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point training and the development of sanitation standard operating procedures, N.C.B.A. relays. In order to encourage broad participation, N.C.B.A. is asking F.S.I.S. to notify states and establishments of the training opportunities to produce the safest products possible.
"Safety is a non-competitive issue for the beef industry and we encourage U.S.D.A. to continue working with the industry, stakeholders and states to achieve our common goal of producing safe beef products," Ms. Butts said. "This program will help ensure that high-quality product continues to be delivered into the marketplace, while providing cattle producers and consumers the opportunity for more local beef supplies."