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Iowa, FSIS sign Cooperative Interstate Shipment agreement

USDA photo by Preston Keres Meat USDA label.jpg
Small meat processors in Iowa can soon ship their products across state lines.

Iowa secretary of agriculture Mike Naig finalized a Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS), which brings state-inspected meat and poultry processors in Iowa one step closer to being able to sell their products across state lines. Eligible processors can apply for admission to the CIS program now.

The agreement was carefully reviewed and approved by FSIS over an 11-month period and will allow the state of Iowa to operate a CIS program, providing an opportunity for certain state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship their products across state lines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the important role that local community meat lockers play in the food supply chain,” Naig said. “I am excited for these meat processors to have the opportunity to grow their businesses, move more products and access new markets. It also gives consumers more access to Iowa-raised and processed meat.”

The CIS program promotes the expansion of business opportunities for state-inspected meat and poultry establishments. Under CIS, state-inspected plants can operate as federally inspected facilities -- under specific conditions -- and ship their product in interstate commerce.

The CIS program is limited to plants located in the 27 states that have established a Meat & Poultry Inspection Program and maintain “at least equal to” FSIS regulatory standards. The assigned state inspectors under the “at least equal to” program will remain as the plant’s onsite inspectors, provided that they have the same training and inspect the plant under “the same” regulatory standards as their federal counterparts in FSIS-inspected plants.

To qualify for the CIS program, a meat processor must have fewer than 25 full-time employees and comply with all federal food safety, sanitation and facility regulations. Individual livestock producers cannot apply to the CIS program, but they can sell their meat and poultry products across state lines if processed at a CIS facility.

State of Iowa meat inspectors visit state-inspected facilities every day they process products that bear the mark of inspection. State meat inspectors examine the livestock, quality of the meat, facility sanitation and recordkeeping so consumers can have confidence in the meat and poultry products they buy. CIS facilities will also receive periodic visits from FSIS officials to ensure that they are operating in compliance with federal guidelines.

FSIS provides ongoing oversight of the CIS program to ensure that participating states maintain and operate their “same as” programs in a manner that complies with all applicable federal statutes and regulations and follow FSIS directives and notices. FSIS also verifies that selected establishments in the state remain eligible to participate in the CIS program.

Iowa is the seventh state to enter into a CIS agreement with FSIS. To date, there are 68 official, state-inspected facilities in Iowa that are eligible to apply to the CIS program. The CIS program was created by the 2008 farm bill, and since then, FSIS has signed agreements with Indiana, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin. A complete list of approved CIS establishments is available on the FSIS website. Iowa plants will be added to this list as they apply and are accepted into the CIS program.

R-CALF USA encouraged all states to immediately begin applying for the CIS program administered by FSIS so they, too, can begin alleviating the serious bottleneck that has occurred in the beef supply chain -- a bottleneck marked by the hundreds of thousands of slaughter-ready cattle that are sitting in U.S. feedlots with no market to sell into.

R-CALF USA chief executive officer Bill Bullard said the cattle industry is in a race against the clock to utilize all available resources to begin easing the live cattle bottleneck, including giving state-inspected meat plants the ability to expand their marketing reach.

TAGS: Policy
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