October 13, 2005
Dr. Richard Raymond
Under Secretary for Food Safety
U.S. Department of Agriculture
14th Street & Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Dr. Raymond:
Congratulations on your recent confirmation.
We value our state-federal partnership and our long history of working together to build a food safety system that is effective, practical, and credible–for businesses and consumers alike. For many years, state inspection programs have been able and willing to enforce critical food safety requirements, but one issue continues to be a thorn in our side: interstate shipment of state-inspected meat products. After more than thirty years, state and federal inspection programs should now function together as a seamless system that ensures food safety and confidence in both intrastate and interstate commerce.
I am writing on behalf of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) to request a meeting with you at your soonest opportunity to discuss interstate meat shipment and issues related to state-inspected meat and poultry products.
As you know, the 2002 Farm Bill includes language directing USDA to conduct a comprehensive review of state meat and poultry inspection programs and to provide a report to Congress on these activities by the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). We believe this report is extremely important because it will enable USDA and the states to begin any transition work now for a future inspection program where state-inspected products would be eligible for interstate shipment.
NASDA has been a strong and vocal advocate of interstate meat shipment for many years. The 1996 and 2002 Farm Bills required reports from USDA. The 1996 report resulted in a legislative proposal put forward by the previous Administration. We are anxiously awaiting the 2002 report. Both USDA and Congress have held extensive public hearings on the subject and the record has clearly shown there is no food safety issue to resolve. Three USDA advisory committees have recommended removing the interstate ban. Frankly, we have debated this issue for far too long while many, many small meat processors have gone out of business waiting. We believe it is time to move forward.
NASDA intends to push for Congressional action on an interstate shipment bill at the earliest date. We firmly believe it will create more opportunities for a prosperous and competitive marketplace for small businesses that could help sustain rural communities. I hope our meeting can serve as a foundation that will allow us to move forward as partners in providing consumers with a safe and wholesome food supply.
We look forward to your prompt reply and stand ready to work with USDA on this important issue.
J. Carlton Courter III
Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services