The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced on April 8 that Indiana has become the latest among a handful of states taking action to help provide new opportunities for small businesses processing meat and poultry.  Indiana has joined USDA's Cooperative Interstate Shipment Program, which gives certain selected small and very small state-inspected meat and poultry processors the option to ship meat and poultry products bearing an official USDA mark of inspection across state lines.

Indiana joins Ohio, North Dakota and Wisconsin in the voluntary shipment program designed to expand market opportunities for America's small meat and poultry producers and processors, strengthen state and local economies, and increase consumer access to safe, locally-produced food.

"This program plays an important role in expanding opportunities for local producers and small businesses, while also ensuring that a robust food safety inspection system is maintained to protect consumers," said Brian Ronholm, USDA acting undersecretary for food safety.

State-inspected establishments selected to participate in the program are required to comply with federal standards under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). The facilities receive inspection services from state inspection personnel that have been trained in FMIA and PPIA requirements. The facilities are then allowed to sell and ship their products outside their home states. 

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 the USDA Mark of Inspection at selected establishments. Prior to instituting the program, state-inspected businesses did not have the opportunity to sell products outside their state.

The FSIS partnership with other USDA agencies through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative provides a full range of services to more than 90 percent of the more than 6,200 federally inspected small or very small meat, poultry and egg processing plants.

Indiana state-inspected establishments interested in shipping interstate should contact the Indiana State Board of Animal Health. The USDA's Small Plant Help Desk provides small meat businesses with assistance in understanding regulatory requirements. The help desk can be reached between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, at 1-877-FSISHelp (1-877-374-7435).