USDA announced that Ohio will be the first state to participate in USDA's Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program. Under this program, Ohio's small, state-inspected meat processors will be able to ship their products across state lines. The cooperative interstate shipment program will expand economic opportunities for America's small meat and poultry processors, strengthen state and local economies, and increase consumer access to safe, locally-produced food.

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

Under the cooperative agreement, small, state-inspected businesses with 25 or fewer employees will be allowed to sell meat products across state lines. Meat products produced in selected establishments will be subject to the same regulatory sampling programs as those established in the Federal inspection program.

The Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program was established by the 2008 Farm Bill. In 2011, USDA finalized regulations to allow state employees to administer federal regulations and use federal marks of inspection at selected establishments. Prior to the establishment of this program, state-inspected businesses could only sell products within their state.

State-inspected establishments interested in shipping interstate should contact their state's meat inspection program. In addition, USDA will shortly 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.