WASHINGTON – Ohio is the first state to participate in a federal program that allows small, state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship products across state lines, the US Department of Agriculture announced Aug. 8.

Under the USDA’s Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program small meat and poultry processors with 25 or fewer employees will be allowed to sell meat products across state lines. Before the program was established, state-inspected businesses could only sell products within state lines. USDA finalized regulations in 2011 that allow state employees to administer federal regulations and use federal marks of inspection at selected establishments.

"This agreement allows a small processor in Ohio to sell products to neighbors in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and beyond," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen 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."

State-inspected establishments interested in joining the program can contact their state's meat inspection program. The USDA's Small Plant Help Desk is also available to help small meat and poultry operations understand regulatory requirements. The Help Desk can be reached between 8am and 4pm EST, Monday through Friday, at 1-877-FSISHelp.